The polls are looking pretty grim for President Obama following the launch, and implosion, of his “signature achievement.” Actually, the big NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll that has everyone buzzing today was taken before the full fury of the ObamaCrash had even been unleashed:
Just 42 percent approve of the president’s job performance, which is down five points from earlier this month. By comparison, 51 percent disapprove of his job in office — tied for his all-time high.
The NBC/WSJ pollsters argue that no single reason explains Obama’s lower poll standing. Rather, they attribute it to the accumulation of setbacks since the summer — allegations of spying by the National Security Agency, the debate over Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now intense scrutiny over the problems associated with the health care law’s federal website and its overall implementation.
Those events have combined to erase some of the advantage the president gained with polls showing most Americans blame congressional Republicans for the shutdown.
And for the first time in the survey, even Obama’s personal ratings are upside-down, with 41 percent viewing him a favorable light and 45 percent viewing him negatively.
“Personally and politically, the public’s assessment is two thumbs down,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.
As the pollsters go on to note, everyone in Washington is looking unpopular right now, with the Republicans standing at at overall 22 percent positive / 53 percent negative rating. But as we’re often reminded during these political clashes, there’s a big difference between focused public ire at an individual versus grousing about party politics, and no one in Congress is equivalent to the President. That often works in Obama’s favor, but now it’s turning against him. That’s particularly bad news for the President considering that much of his political strategy involves amassing huge amounts of political capital and then bluffing Republicans with it, rather than engaging and spending it. That’s how he has been able to float over Washington, posing as a disaffected outsider who just rolled into the Oval Office last night, and is just as horrified by what he found as you are. It’s an act that gets hooked off the stage if Obama’s personal approval numbers drop.
Maybe that’s why the White House pronounced itself satisfied with the hot mess HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius served up on Capitol Hill yesterday. She’d make a lovely scapegoat, don’t you think?
This isn’t just one outlier poll, either. RealClearPolitics compiles an average of poll ratings, and it currently tracks quite well with the new NBC/WSJ numbers. It’s not easy to find anyone that puts him under 50 percent disapproval, and nobody has him over 50 percent approval. The bombshell revelations about the magnitude of his “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” lies are not going to endear him to many people. And the bad news is hitting a huge number of people as real and personal. It’s not just abstract stories about some faceless population of remote Americans losing their health insurance. It’s you, or someone you know. Democrat efforts to spin all this away – by insulting the people who have suffered under ObamaCare, and telling Americans they were foolish to take anything Obama promised at face value – have the distinct muffled sound of a shovel getting slammed into rocky soil at the bottom of a very deep hole.
NBC and the Wall Street Journal also polled the popularity of ObamaCare. 52 percent want major overhaul or repeal, while 44 percent think it’s working well as it is. That’s not a huge change for October, but the internals reveal a significant shift in a key demographic:
The number of respondents who said the law was a good or bad idea was relatively unchanged from earlier this month. But support for the law has slipped with one key group – women, who traditionally rank health care as a higher priority than men, and who are seen as an important plank in selling the law.
Americans called it a bad idea by a 47-37 percent margin – a shift from 43-38 percent earlier this month. But among women, a group President Barack Obama won by 11 points in 2012, just 38 percent think it’s a good idea, while 45 percent do not. That’s down from early October, when most women said the law was a good idea by a 41-39 percent margin.
Among white women, results are even worse. Three weeks ago, they thought it was a bad idea by a 46-36 percent margin. Now a majority say so, at 52-32 percent.
It’s a little depressing to think that it takes something this obvious and personal to wake people up. Maybe that should be taken as an indictment of Republican efforts to educate them, including Mitt Romney’s campaign. Or it might be a testament to the enduring power of the “something for nothing” illusion, in which benefits can be showered upon the deserving at no cost to anyone who really matters. It’s ugly to think a large number of people might think, “who cares what happens to everyone else, as long as I get mine?”
But maybe the gravy train comes off the rails when there is such a combination of systemic failure and individual consequence. Real people are hurting, obvious mendacity has been exposed, incompetence on a staggering scale has been laid bare, and the whole scheme suddenly looks as unworkable as ObamaCare critics always warned. Underneath it all lies a strongly divided electorate, which is bound to boil the poll numbers when something really big happens. The Republican poll hit from the shutdown is fading, as a much larger story eclipses it, and even the more distant reaches of the electorate have no doubt where the GOP stood, in the days before ObamaCare came crashing down.
Now, would pollsters like to tell their subjects that the chaos in the individual market is nothing compared to what will hit us when the employer mandate goes into effect, and see how they feel about repeal?