[Posted by Karl]
The Politico, like CQ and other media outlets, is noticing the erosion in Pres. Obama’s poll numbers:
Eroding confidence in President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy and ability to control spending has caused his approval ratings to wilt to their lowest levels since he took office, according to a spate of recent polls, a sign of political weakness that comes just as he most needs leverage on Capitol Hill.
Surveys released last week by Pew, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and The New York Times/CBS News show a similar pattern. The Pew survey, for example, registered an 8-percentage-point drop in public approval for Obama’s handling of the economy — falling from 60 percent to 52 percent between mid-April and June. The percentage of Americans who disapprove jumped by 7 percentage points during the same period.
Though Democrats are still generally more supportive of the administration overall, the slide in the president’s economic numbers defied partisan boundaries. The Pew survey, for instance, showed support for Obama’s handling of the economy sliding 6 percentage points among Democrats and independents.
The same trend appears in the latest ABCNews poll, which shows “a retrenchment in the expectation that his stimulus plan will improve the economy — and, consequently, a halt in what had been steadily improving views of the nation’s direction.” ABCNews polled adults. The latest Rasmussen poll finds that 39% of likely voters say our economic problems are caused more by Obama’s policies than those of fmr. Pres. Bush, a 12-point jump from a month ago. Independents split almost evenly on that question.
Most of the analyses of Obama’s current poll numbers also note Pres. Obama’s continued overall popularity, as does Ed Morrissey:
Conservatives shouldn’t get too excited about Obama’s numbers. He remains a likable figure, with personal polling remaining high. Ronald Reagan had high personal numbers, too, and he leveraged his popularity to win political battles many predicted he’d lose.
The bit about Reagan is a myth, part of The Narrative of the Eighties, in which the Left convinced itself that Reagan was all about charisma, instead of ideology or policy. In his first term, Reagan’s job performance and policies were often rated more highly than Reagan personally.
Ed is more on target in noting the impact that rising unemployment will have on Obama’s popularity and the Democrats’ prospects for the 2010 midetrm elections. As ABCNews notes:
Obama’s vulnerability on the economy remains — exemplified by Reagan, the last president to take office in the teeth of a recession. His approval fell from a peak of 73 percent in March 1981 to 48 percent as the economy still struggled 11 months later. And today, public ratings of current economic conditions are just a few points from their record low in 23 years of weekly tracking by ABC News.
Open Lefty blogger Chris Bowers recently noted that in early June 1981, Reagan had an approval rating similar to Obama’s current approval. Bowers then plotted Reagan’s disapproval ratings against the unemployment statistics in 1981-82, complete with charts and graphs (Jay Cost has a graph for the entire Reagan presidency that underscores the point). Given how closely those numbers track, Bowers concluded:
Ideally for Democrats, unemployment would start to decline by February of 2010, which would provide enough time before the elections to recoup whatever losses they would suffer between now and peak unemployment. However, few economists seem to be predicting such an early unemployment peak, so that is a longshot.
Since Bowers wrote that, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the unemployment rate will continue to rise into the second half of next year. Unemployment is not the whole ball game electorally; some studies show personal income is the key factor. However, the US economy was on the upswing in 1982, 1992 and 1994 — and in each case, the party of the president was punished at the polls, as the public did not see conditions improving fast enough. Unemployment may be a lagging indicator, but forecasts pushing the peak further into the future are suggesting any recovery next year will be less than robust.
In short, based on the current projections, it is small wonder some in the Obama White House are sad they don’t have George W. Bush to kick around anymore.