President Obama’s approval rating has crossed into a new danger zone over the last month, as fresh concerns over the economy have pushed his positives and negatives into upside down territory, a development that will cause political winds to blow even harder against Democrats this fall.
One month ago on July 12, Obama’s approval and disapproval both stood at 47 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average. On Tuesday, the president’s approval had fallen to 44.4 percent. Disapproval had jumped to 50.4 percent.
The graph illustrating the movement is stark. After muddling through the past year in parallel lines, the black line for approval has taken a nose dive and the red line for disapproval has shot up.
This movement coincides with growing fears that the economic recovery hoped for and heralded by Obama and Democrats has fallen far short of expectations and may be dissolving in the face of another downturn. The Federal Reserve’s signal of reduced confidence in the economy on Tuesday caused anxiety on Wall Street Wednesday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 265 points.
“Malaise and stagnation are the best case and a second collapse is the worst case. You can’t take a second collapse off the table,” said market and financial analyst Jim Rickards, of Omnis.
“Those numbers are going to get worse for Obama because the economy is going to get worse,” Rickards said. “This is a depression. It’s a depression that began in 2007, and it will probably run until at least 2012, maybe 2013.”
Gallup’s daily tracking poll, which formulates its numbers differently than Real Clear Politics, shows less fluctuation. But even there, Obama has gone from 47 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval a month ago to a 45/48 spread.
“It’s clearly not where the president hoped he’d be — or thought he’d be — after passing the stimulus, health care reform, and Wall Street reform,” said Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary to President Bill Clinton. “And it just confirms what presidents who govern in bad economic times all know (or learn): they’re lashed to those job numbers like Ahab to Moby Dick.”
“Obama’s job approval might bounce around a bit in the coming months, but it won’t improve substantially until the economy shows more sustained growth — and people who want jobs can find them,” Myers said. “To his credit, I think the president understands that, and the daily ebb and flow (or ebb, in his case) doesn’t seem to rattle him too much.”
Obama did not appear concerned in comments at the White House Wednesday.
“We knew from the beginning that reversing the damage done by the worst financial crisis and the deepest recession in generations would take some time — more time than anyone would like,” he said. “So while we have fought back from the worst of this recession, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
But comments by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs betrayed a growing anxiety inside the administration.