This week, President Barack Obama’s public approval rating of 54% (according to the latest Gallup figures) slipped to the lowest of his presidency thus far, 2% below that of former President George W. Bush’s Gallup numbers at precisely the same point in his tenure. Consider that Bush had a leftist-dominated media stacked against him in the wake of having “stolen” the election from their man, Al Gore, while Obama’s only real opponent has been himself. And Bush started out at 57%, while Obama has appeared to have squandered the 68% rating he enjoyed out of the gate.
Any reference to being neck-and-neck with Bush was conveniently omitted in much of the news coverage of Obama’s ratings. Instead, he was compared to Presidents Clinton, Carter and GHW Bush. To do otherwise would be to acknowledge that the media’s golden boy, for all their hype, has only managed thus far to score worse than the man they consider the “worst president in American history”.
Crises in politics — particularly ones that terrify the public and compel many to look to the government for reassurance — typically provide a window for politicians to rocket upwards in the ratings if they can be seen as taking some kind of effective corrective action. Bush’s numbers shot up more than 30%, from 55% to 86%, in the week following the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, when he responded by going after those responsible. Obama was blessed with the political gift of an economic crisis as he stepped into the Oval Office. It was a chance, a major political opportunity. He and the Democrats handled it by signing off on a load of spending on government pet projects and pork, most of which has yet to be fed into the economic engine. The “green jobs” that were supposed to have been created don’t even exist yet except maybe in the hazy pot-driven dreams of some envirowackos. He may as well have promised people jobs building a city on Mars. So perhaps not surprisingly, 49% of Americans in a mid-July Gallup poll believe Obama’s economic recovery actions have had zero effect. And Americans disapproving of his handling of the deficit jumped 14% to 55%. Translation: They don’t like his spending spree.
Polling shows that Americans are approximately 10% less frightened by current economic conditions than they were when Obama took the oath of office, obviously they’re not quite clueless enough to credit him with any recovery.
Notably, the President’s support among Whites and Hispanics has dropped significantly, but Blacks don’t seem to be budged by anything he does or doesn’t do.
Let’s have a look at the other major events playing prominently enough in the media to have an impact on Obama’s measurably sinking approval.
Health care reform: People generally like free stuff. And Obama has said that any such program would be funded via an added tax on people making serious boatloads of money – which isn’t most people, so you’d think they’d be keen on it. But they’ve seen in the media that the Democrats are being pushy and hasty about it. Like a used car salesman who might in fact be selling you a decent car, people can still be turned off by a slimy pitch. And it doesn’t help that the public has, by now, heard about the new cap-and-trade tax that was slipped into a bill and rammed through without many of the seatwarmers in Washington having even bothered to read the thing. What this means is that although people might actually like the free health care idea, they don’t want it to be like signing up for one of those scammy CD clubs where you get 12 free CDs off the bat but then end up spending the next 20 years having to suck up unwanted Kenny G CDs and associated bills for the fine print commitment you unwittingly made. Obama needs to back off from giving press conferences that make people feel like they need to hose down their TV and take a shower afterwards, and just give voters a little time to process it. That’s what an increase in disapproval on the health care reform issue — from 44% to 50% — would indicate.
On the other prominent topic playing out in the media over the course of the last polling period, Obama waded into the issue involving a cop who busted a man breaking into his own house who happened to be black. Obama called the police in question stupid during a press conference, and chose to make it into a race issue of “white cop vs. black suspect” rather than the more typical one of “cop doing his job vs. suspect acting like a lunatic”. Gallup shows an approval drop of 3% from the period prior to Obama wading into the mess. It may have even been greater had he not offered to have everyone over to his place to duke it out over beer. Perhaps the public was waiting to see how it ultimately played out. In the final analysis, the meeting didn’t change the world. It didn’t even change the participants’ respective talking points. They barely even touched their beer — which might explain the lack of progress, if there was any to be had in the first place. If there was any substance at all there, it was in the form of Guinness.
It would appear that Obama perhaps used up his full quota of symbolism during the election, and now suddenly people are looking for substance. But the polling would indicate that perhaps they’re finally starting to realize that they’re getting exactly what they voted for.