A number of polls released this month have shown that President Barack Obama’s approval rating has dropped dramatically from its post-reelection highs. Surveys show that Obama is seeing his approval among a number of his core constituencies drop, which is likely to complicate bilateral negotiations with Congressional Republicans. While Republicans in Congress remain far more unpopular than the president, they are aware of the president’s collapsing approval rating. An examination of Obama’s support is crucial to understanding how Republicans will fare in negotiations with the president.
A CNN/ORC poll, taken between March 15 – 17, 2013, of 1,021 adults with a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error, shows the president’s approval rating is underwater for the first time since well before the 2012 presidential election. With 47 percent of adults approving of the job the president is doing compared to 50 percent who disapprove, Obama is at his lowest approval rating among all adults since CNN/ORC’s September 28-30, 2012, survey. The last time CNN found the president underwater among adults was their January 11 – 12, 2012, survey which found Obama’s job approval rating at 47/51 percent.
The president’s approval rating is even more troubling for his supporters when one digs into this poll’s crosstabs. Obama is underwater among women. 49 percent of women disapproving of the job he has done in office compared to 48 percent who approve. Though this result is well within this subsample’s +/- 4.5 percent margin of error, in September of 2012, 51 to 45 percent of women approved of the job Obama is doing in office.
The president is buoyed by young adults aged 18 – 35-years-old who support the president by 49 to 43 percent, but Obama’s approval rating is underwater across all other age groups. In September, self-identified moderate voters approved of the job Obama was doing in office by 61 to 37 percent with a MoE of +/- 5.5 percent. Today, that number has shrunk to 54/42 percent approval. Obama remains as unpopular among self-identified independents as he was prior to the election.
In fact, the only area where the president has shown an irrefutable increase in his level of support is among those adults residing in the Northeast. Today, 60 percent of adults in the Northeast approve of the job Obama is doing in office compared to 36 who disapprove. In September, just 50 percent of Northeasterners approved of Obama compared to 46 percent who disapproved.
CNN/ORC’s findings are matched by other pollsters in the field in a similar period. A McClatchy/Marist poll from March 4 – 7, 2013 of 1,068 registered voters found Obama slipping to 45 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval. A Democracy Corps survey of likely voters taken from March 9 – 12, 2013, shows Obama down to 48 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval. Neither poll, however, provides their full crosstabs.
One survey that does, however, provide a counter to these findings is a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll of an undisclosed number of adults taken from March 7 – 10. This survey found Obama above water at 50 to 46 percent approval. However, they registered a significant dip from Obama’s job approval rating in a WaPo/ABC poll released January 13 which showed the president at 55/41 percent approval.
What these polls show definitively is that the president’s post-election bounce is gone. The political capital he would have preferred to spend in pursuit of a comprehensive immigration reform plan or stricter gun laws was consumed in rolling battles with Congress over the sequester and the debt ceiling between December and February. Obama is now reduced to negotiating with the dismally unpopular members of Congress on relatively equal footing. This is not a place a president entering his second term would prefer to be.
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