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Tilting at Windmills

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August 21, 2009

OBAMA SUPPORT STILL SLIPPING, GOP STILL NOT CAPITALIZING.... Consistent with what we've seen in other polls, the latest survey from the Washington Post/ABC News offers some discouraging numbers for the White House. The news wasn't all bad -- the poll showed President Obama with a 57% approval rating, which is still quite high -- but other key numbers have fallen off, especially when it comes to public confidence.

Public confidence in President Obama's leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to health-care reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Among all Americans, 49 percent now express confidence that Obama will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency. Forty-nine percent now say they think he will be able to spearhead significant improvements in the system, down nearly 20 percentage points from before he took office.

As challenges to Obama's initiatives have mounted over the summer, pessimism in the nation's direction has risen: Fifty-five percent see things as pretty seriously on the wrong track, up from 48 percent in April.

There are some hints of optimism -- half the country expects the recession to be over within the year, nearly double the number from February -- but in general, the poll points to a public in a sour mood.

Specifically on health care, the public doesn't like the president's handling of the issue, and opponents of the Democratic plan(s) outnumber supporters. Perhaps more important, the Post noted, "Intensity is on the side of the detractors: Forty percent of all Americans strongly oppose the plans, while 27 percent are solidly behind them."

As for the public option, the poll asked, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" Despite the right's best efforts, a 52% majority still supports a public option, though the number is down from 62% in June. (The question did not indicate that the government-run plan would be optional.)

But despite the drop off in support for the administration, Republicans still aren't capitalizing. Poll respondents were asked "how much confidence" they have in the various players "to make the right decisions for the country's future." For the president, the number was 49%. For congressional Democrats, it was 35%. And for congressional Republicans, just 21% expressed confidence in them. For those saying they have "a great deal of confidence," Obama led GOP lawmakers, 28% to 4%. (That's not a typo -- only 4% have a lot of confidence in Republicans on the Hill.)

What's more, while the president's numbers have dropped -- 60% confidence in April to 49% in August -- Republican numbers haven't improved at all. Confidence in the GOP is almost identical to where it was in April, with the only noticeable change coming with an uptick among those who have "no confidence at all."

Efforts to undermine the president and his agenda are having an effect. At this point, however, it has not translated into improved standing for the Republican Party.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Obama's going to find out that when you go out of your way to piss on your strongest supporters on your way up in the polls, the ride back down is a lonely one.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on August 21, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen seems to be implying that others are to blame for Obama's falling poll numbers, but I see his poll numbers as a self-inflicted mood. I was a proud Obama supporter during the campaign, but if a pollster asked me if they were satisfied with his performance, I would have to say that I was not. He seems to be acting more as a Senator than a leader. I don't get it. I realize that your role is to not criticize President Obama, but he really seems to be falling down on the job. It started with appointing Tim Geithner as the Treasury Secretary and has gone downhill from there.

Posted by: ga73 on August 21, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

As an independent voter I would like to see a public option inacted. As a consevative I would like to see a plan instituted that covered our elected sector,our government employee's and our military. I would like to be able to buy in to this plan,unless I opted out.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on August 21, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Steve here. The problem is that the poll won't be interpreted that way by the MSM. Instead it will be that he's gone too far left and that the public wants him to be MORE cautious.

Half of those people souring on his handling of HCR are negative because he's selling out to the insurance industry, not because he's a "socialist who wants to kill Grandma".

But it won't be interpreted that way.

Posted by: howie on August 21, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

When I said I agree with Steve, I meant LaBonne and not Benen.

Posted by: howie on August 21, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Read Krugman's "Obama’s Trust Problem" to understand why. From torture to Gitmo from the bailouts to the health care fiasco, it's becoming obvious that he's not a progressive but another spineless professional Democrat. My enthusiasm is gone and I'm close to becoming cynical and just not trusting him to do anything that takes conviction. I don't think I'm alone.

Posted by: Aris on August 21, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

i dont think the poll establishes any real quantification of the president's approval or the repugnants' or congress'.

i think the presidnet is still highly popular and the repugnants continue to garner the strong support of only the emotionally differently abled -- the angry and afraid -- ie, Bush's 26%ers.

what the poll shows -- as have all of them for years -- is that the people dont think we are governing ourselves well at all. and it is getting more and more evident.

this country is becoming democratically dysfunctional.
i think it is the power of the corporations, my friends -- but i'm a pure man.

Posted by: neill on August 21, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

The Obama State Department's approval of an oil pipeline to bring hideously polluting Canadian tar sands oil to the USA certainly undermines my confidence in the Obama administration. The tar sands operations cause truly monstrous regional environmental destruction, and produce 151 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional oil production.

More and more, it seems that we are being asked to support Obama because he is Obama, and not because his administration's policies, decisions and proposals are worthy of support.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 21, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

None of these polls will offer any useful information until they start asking follow-up questions probing WHY the respondent disapproves.

Posted by: shortstop on August 21, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Paul Krugman's column summarizes my problems with Obama, as well. Enough with the rope-a-dope; there are too many dopes and not enough rope. We need some real progress, or Obama will lose the support of those that elected him.

Posted by: qwerty on August 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

To: EC Sedgwick

"As a consevative I would like to see a plan instituted that covered our elected sector,our government employee's and our military"

Uh? Are you aware, as a conservative, that there are existing plans doing exactly this? The only exception is that the military runs its own health care system, but there is coverage for those who cannot access the military facilities.

Could you clarify??

Posted by: JoanneinDenver on August 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

It's unfortunate that those polled don't currently understand what the GOP is accomplishing by saving the country from Obama but that's just a price we temporarily pay.

In 2010 and 2012, after the electorate realizes what it's been spared, the Republican approval numbers will go up significantly.

I can wait. Can you guys?

Posted by: Mlke K on August 21, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe one reason that the Republicans are not "capitalizing" on Obama's falling support numbers is that the drop in those numbers reflects weakening support from disappointed, disillusioned progressives, and not people who prefer the Republicans.

I never expected Obama to be strongly "progressive". After all we're not talking about Russ Feingold or Dennis Kucinich here. I never expected anything from Obama other than technocratic, "kinder and gentler", "compassionate conservative" corporatist governance, and I am certainly glad that he is the president and not John McCain.

But even at that, I am disappointed.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

i could wait a lot happier if the democrats walked away from the republicans clearly and decisively and reiterated it over and over and over and over to the media.

"The Republicans have walked away from governance, we will go it without them."

And then the Dems got their shit together and did it.

We'd see what 2010 and 2012 would bring then...

Posted by: neill on August 21, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

The public wants Obama to try to steamroll the GOP. They will back him if he does. His support is slipping because it is becoming apparent that he won't fight the GOP.

Posted by: rk on August 21, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

It's one thing to say that you don't like the republican party as constituted. It's another to trust an incumbent democrat over a republican outsider. The danger is there.

Posted by: Dero on August 21, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Despite a quiet physical erudition , Mongoose is barely ahead of the Cobra in opinion polls . Mrs Mongoose reports the Cobra was very tasty .

Posted by: FRP on August 21, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

At this point, however, it has not translated into improved standing for the Republican Party.

Well, spreading FUD is not the same as offering a counter-proposal.

Posted by: PeakVT on August 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I think the public responds positively to leadership and strength, and Obama isn't demonstrating it in this healthcare "debate".
People like bipartisanship, but not so much that they place it above doing what you think is right, and proving that you can't be pushed around by a-holes who will say or do anything to defeat you.
His retreat on the public option forced Repubs to admit that they didn't really want any reform at all. The time for trying to work with people who aren't negotiating in good faith has gone, his support will continue to slide if he allows the nonsense with the Baucus 6 to continue.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on August 21, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's support is slipping because inattentive voters see angry mobs at these town hall forums and assume that where there's smoke there's fire when all they're really seeing are smokescreens.

Posted by: Ted Frier on August 21, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

"The public wants Obama to try to steamroll the GOP."

Quite right. Here's an example about resolve that should have been a lesson to Democrats: I used to live in Ohio's Second District, which is solidly, transcendentally Republican. In 2005, in a special election an unknown Democrat called Paul Hackett was picked to go against Republican crazy woman Jean Schmidt, because somebody had to run against her. He had very little time and money but he lost only narrowly, having the best showing by any Democrat since 1974. His trick? He gave 'em hell, pulling no punches, giving no quarter. Not everybody likes a tough guy, but everybody respects one.

I'd like to see a Democrat for once fight with the ferocity of a Republican.

Posted by: Aris on August 21, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the "dissatisfied with Obama's performance on health care number" includes:
1. People who think Obama is a Kenyan born communist who wants to kill their grandmother


2. People who want Obama to pass a single payer bill and ram it down Chuck Grassley's throat.

Individually those groups are in the 25-30 percent range. Though they certainly cannot be combined, when merged statistically they constitute a majority.

Posted by: Art Hackett on August 21, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, 57% approval. Terrible, terrible. If that's his level after the August onslaught, the Teflon actually still is there.

Funny how so many blog commenters like to say, "Obama is slipping in the polls because (insert my pet theory/cause/prescribed approach here)...." Because he didn't kill Karl Rove and Sarah Palin with his bare hands on television!!!

The reality is much blander. He is popular, he has taken some hits, but is resilient, and his continued popularity provides him with a strong baseline to "comeback" on this issue.

Posted by: Frank C. on August 21, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

He is losing support among liberals and the base. However, the smarty pant know it all elites running the Dem Party will conclude this is because he has not capitulated enough to the right wing.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on August 21, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I for one have not forgotten the mess Obama inherited when he took office. His policies walked us back from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. I give him credit for that. What have the Republicans got to offer? Flapdoodle over birth certificates and death panels? I'll take Obama any day.

Posted by: damselfly on August 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the "dissatisfied with Obama's performance on health care number" includes...

Long running polling pet peeve....

The same polling artiface held true for the "dissatisfied with Bush's performance on Iraq" number -- half wanted out yesterday, half wanted to glass the place. The war was never as unpopular as its critics maintained, nor as popular as its supporters claimed, but the binary nature of polls cloaked that fact.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

for 'artiface' read 'artifact'.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 21, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and his team signaled in the media the public option wasn't a go-to-the-mat issue and then found out the base that elected him thought it was. After the base's uproar, he does an about face. That kind of credibility damage is self-inflicted and much deeper than anything the Republicans can do to undermine him. Unfortunately, it's not the first time the president has shown himself to be spineless.

Posted by: gone_west on August 21, 2009 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

One possibility being ignored here is that Obama's support is falling because his plan is not progressive enough. When I learned that only a small number of people would be even be able to enroll in the public "option", I was disappointed. People have, generally speaking, expressed considerable support for more government involvement in health care, and the democrats are offering them something pretty minimal in that regard, and the details are hazy. All the compromises, from taking single-payer off the table at the start to now losing any public program at all, seem like politics as usual: corporate concerns are addressed, and the public's are ignored, all while maintaning the illusion of the exact opposite.

Posted by: Jason on August 21, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

yer tellin' me obama has the chance to kill sarah palin and karl rove with his bare hands and he blew it?

well, to hell with him...

Posted by: neill on August 21, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oyyoyyoy none of this is surprising. Obama's pissing off Dems and libs. They're not going to suddenly find themselves with a conservative heart. They are in fact pissed at Obama for not being liberal enough, hell he's coming across as not MODERATE enough. The GOP is not going to attract these voters, ever. Meanwhile, true mods and indies are holding out hope for the man, because the right is SO far right, Obama's right of center looks downright sane.

To put in a way that people who are dumber than the regular readers can understand - y'all can think Angelina ain't all that, but that don't mean you want to see Jenn's new flick.

To put in a way prog rock fans from the 80s would understand - you may not have been a big fan of Anderson, Bruford Wakeman & How, but that doesn't mean you were aching to buy that Cinema CD that never came out.

To put it in a way Britney Spears would understand, just because you're no longer a girl, doesn't mean you are yet a woman.

It ain't all black and white, no matter how much the media would like to make it out to be for their conservative masters to benefit.

Posted by: slappy magoo on August 21, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

You read all these comments and you get the sense that Obama has more to worry about from a primary challenge in 2012 then a general election.

Which is probably true...

Posted by: Lance on August 21, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I second many of the comments above. Obama's loss of support is directly attributable to his bullshit, weak-kneed, lily-livered approach of behaving as though the congressional Republicans have any credibility whatsoever.

Posted by: karen marie on August 21, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am impressed at the ignorance displayed by the comments here. The public is afraid of the government screwing up their healthcare. The problem with the current system is the government. The mandates and regulations force prices up and then congress complains about the rise in prices. The government cannot do anything efficiently. The only thing a government run system can do is ration care to bring down prices. Can we go through the list? Amtrack (annual deficit)? Post office (billions in the hole)? Medicaid? MediCare (exploding costs)? Military procurement (equipment we can't afford)? IRS? Indian Affairs? etc. etc. etc. Can we talk about Obama's exploding deficit spending?

The public is afraid of taking a system that needs reform and flushing it down the toilet with government control. You guys are blind.

Posted by: Tom on August 21, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Tom, take it to the wingnut blogs where people will swallow this ignorant crap. People here are smarter than that, and than you. Right, the old farts yelling "keep the government out of my Medicare" are terrified of government-run health plans. No, they're just ignorant, like your good self.

The US has a uniquely crappy and inefficient health care system- thanks in good part to the prevalence of easily manipulated idiots like you in the population. And oddly enough, while all of the numerous more successful systems have heavy government involvement combined with widely varying amounts of private financing and /or provision, not a single one relies on for-profit insurers or providers. Funny that.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on August 21, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

We aren't afraid of government scewing up their healthcare. The insurance companies are doing a good job of that on their own. We're afraid of change because we don't know what's coming. No one has enough details on how this is going to work to have a read on what the impact will be.

We know what Medicare and Single payer would provide, and we project that view hopefully onto a public option. Without those solutions available for all on the table, I don't think those of us on a for-profit plan can see it changing for the better overnight, without even *more* screwage on the part of the insurers.

But since the current system is more expensive than medicare Tom, you still aren't adressing the problem. And Tom - we notice you didn't add police, fire, roads, and that you qualified the military. What we do know is that we've tried for profit, and it doesn't work, and that government seems to have some chance of solving the problem.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on August 21, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: royalblue_tom on August 21, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

So, 4% of people surveyed have a lot of confidence in Congressional Republicans. I'm surprised the number's that high.


Posted by: Zorro on August 21, 2009 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well damn Steve, you're right. The GOP hasn't capitalized on it. We should follow your lead and make calls to make them aware of the fact that they are not capitalizing on the drop in confidence for Obama...and really make them aware of it.

Geez...no matter how insightful, don't give these obstructionists any help will ya'. If you notice they aren't capitalizing...keep it to yourself.

GOP tactic...lie, distort and confuse. Lie distort and confuse. What they want is massive confusion and misinformation and as many distractions as possible so the truth cannot get out in tact. Bring guns...that'll keep 'em distracted.

I've never seen a group more focused on political gain at the expense of the health of the entire population as the current GOP. When dealing with flesh eating zombies, bipartisanship is a dirty word.

How could a sitting president allow himself to be dragged around by the nose for the entire summer by a sitting senator like Baucus and Reid who stalled for time to allow this misinformation campaign to flourish....unless the WH and especially Rham Emmanuel, used "bipartisanship" as an excuse to water down their own legislation and that this is the bill they wanted all along...one without a public option giving ins and big pharma everything they could ever want.

Obama acts impotent, too impotent for a popular president. Only the House progressives are standing up for the people and leading the charge for what most Americans want in HC reform...a robust public option...without which there is no reform. I love and support Obama but I'm not going to stand blind to what is really going on.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 21, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Polling numbers that shift widely based on subtle changes in rhetoric (an 8 point swing from "right decision" to "approve"; a 30!!! point swing from "government plan" to "choice") are evidence of low-information respondents who are making up their minds based on the form of the question.

I'd respectfully disagree re: Iraq poll numbers. I realize the "half" bit was pulled out of your, erm, hat, but Iraq numbers were basically solid polling data that declined steadily as the war went on and American casualties mounted with no end in sight, despite changes in the language of the question (e.g. "do you approve of Bush's handling" v.s. "should we have more or less troops" or "was the Iraq war a mistake."

Posted by: Ron Mexico on August 21, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

LOL at how dumb you people were.

It's simple. People watched Obama and the Dems take care of Union bosses and Wall street bosses and other "special elites" and have just seen Democrats that act like Republicans just with some different elites (and some of the same).

The Democrats used to really be for the hard working people. Now they just ignore us and offer to extend our unemployment insurance.

Neither party is worth a crap, but the Dems have done nothing for us so I'll kick them out this time. Next time I'm sure I'll be kicking out the Republicans.

They've got to change the system so that there is a way to get ahead in this country other than having the right government connections.

Posted by: Matt Gilliam on November 1, 2010 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

This will be a terrific blog, will you be involved in doing an interview about just how you developed it? If so e-mail me!

Posted by: patio heaters on April 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK
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