Thursday, August 12, 2010

Obama’s Astonishing Unpopularity

I’m no expert on public opinion. But I remember quite distinctly that, when it came to issues during the Clinton and Bush years, each party had its strong and weak suits. The Republicans had secured the public’s trust on national security and taxes. That left Democrats, after 9/11, with little choice but to nominate a presidential candidate with the manifest limitations of John Kerry because he was the only experienced hand who could manage a presentable military salute when he mounted the stage at the national convention “reporting for duty.”

Yet the Democrats had secured the public’s abiding trust on issues like health care, the administration of Social Security and Medicare and protection of the environment. So elections turned on which set of issues were uppermost in voters’ minds when they cast their ballots. The interregnum between the Cold War and the War on Terror in the 1990s played to the Democrats' strengths, while the trauma of 9/11 turned the electoral tide decisively in the Republicans’ favor in 2002 and 2004.

That makes the results of the latest Gallup poll all the more impressive:
"Barack Obama's 52% approval rating for handling race relations is the only issue among 13 tested in two recent Gallup polls for which the president receives majority-level approval. In fact, a majority disapprove of the job the president is doing on eight of these issues, with his worst scores for his handling of immigration and the federal budget deficit."
Other than race relations (52/38%), there’s no issue on which Obama enjoys majority approval. Education (49/40%) and energy policy (47/42%) are the only issues on which he enjoys statistically significant plurality approval. He's underwater on issues that the Democrats used to own like healthcare policy (40/57%), the environment (43/51%), the federal budget deficit (31/64%) and immigration (29/62%!).

All of this suggests that Obama is leading a party into the mid-terms without a strong suit to mitigate its losses.  That's a recipe for disaster.

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