The White House has been fond of citing turning points lately, most recently when describing the administration’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Now President Obama faces a turning point of his own – and not for the better.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Obama’s approval rating to be the lowest it’s been since he took office 18 months ago. According to the poll, only 45 percent approve of the job Obama is doing in the White House, compared with 48 percent who disapprove. And the numbers only get worse from there: Sixty-two percent of respondents believe the country is on the wrong track – the highest number recorded since just before Election Day in 2008 – and just one-third believe things are going to get better, a 7-point drop since a month ago and the lowest such number in the Obama presidency.
The fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill appears to be the biggest drag on Obama’s numbers. Fifty percent disapprove of his handling of the crisis – including one in four Democrats. But generally, the poll finds increasing doubts about Obama as a leader. Just 49 percent of those polled give Obama positive ratings when asked if he has “strong leadership qualities” – that’s a decline of 8 points since January and nearly 20 points from when he first took office. Less than half rate him positively when asked if he’s “honest and straightforward.” In January ’09, 63 percent gave him positive marks for “being firm and decisive in decision-making.” That number is now at 44 percent. Asked about his “ability to handle a crisis,” only 40 percent rate him positively, an 11-point drop since January.
Obama’s biggest problem: He’s lost the middle – the so-called independent and moderate voters who are generally given the most credit for his win back in 2008. According to the poll, 52 percent of self-described independent voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing. He’s even losing parts of his base. The poll finds Obama with 17 percent disapproval among Democrats – the highest number of his presidency.
None of this is good news for Democrats up for re-election this fall. Beleaguered Democrats had been counting on Obama’s coattails to help them, as polls have also showed a historic trend away from the Democratic Party. According to this new poll, the GOP has a 2-point edge over Democrats in the generic congressional ballot – but among voters who describe themselves as most interested in the 2010 midterms, the GOP jumps to a 21-point lead over Democrats.