Presidential approval ratings dip to all-time low as Obama moves to sell health care
President Obama’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low, indicating that the White House faces a tough job as it tries to gather support this week for both a jobs bill and a revised health-care bill.
A new poll from Iowa-based Selzer and Company shows that since November, Obama’s approval rating among Iowa independents dropped sharply from 48 to 38 percent — reaching its lowest level yet.
Similarly, Rasmussen Reports’ latest release of its nightly automated tracking poll yesterday showed that the number of people who “strongly approve” of the president’s performance reached an all-time low of 22 percent, down from a high of 45 at the beginning of his presidency. At the same time 41 percent “strongly disapprove” of his performance, with remaining voters falling in between.
“Overall the president’s numbers have been between the mid and upper 40s since around Thanksgiving — they tend to get a little lower when health care becomes the primary focus, as it is now,” said Scott Rasmussen, founder of Rasmussen Reports. “The health-care debate has overall captured a lot of people’s frustration … I think people are concerned that the president would like the government to assume an even greater role in the economy than now, and it’s firing up voters.”
Rasmussen noted a shift among independents as well.
“Independent voters voted against the party in power in ’04 and ’08, and then in ’09 we saw it again in New Jersey and Virginia and now Massachusetts,” Rasmussen said. He pointed out that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were elected with their majorities in Congress and both subsequently lost them by the end of their terms. “The frustration voters are feeling now is a continuation of the frustration they felt in the early 1990s. I don’t think it’s unique to Iowa — independents are always less supportive of the party in power — that’s the way it is in this era.”
The new Iowa poll focused how independents feel about Obama.
“This is quite a precipitous drop, there is a loss of confidence — a sense among people that they drank the Kool-Aid, and now there’s a real sense of disappointment,” said Ann Selzer, president of Selzer and Company, which conducted the latest study of Iowa independents.
“His overall job approval rating is at 46 from a high of 68, and has been under 50 percent for some time now. He’d already lost whatever Republican support he had. He is holding onto some Democratic support, there are some people who are still holding out hope, but it’s really the independents who have changed their minds,” continued Selzer. “They’re not tied to any one party, and here in Iowa you are judged not only on what you do but on how what you do is being talked about.”
This week the president unveiled a new scaled-down version of his health-care bill, and continued to push for reform.
“I think health care is one of the culprits, and our poll bears this out, but the bigger problem here is the budget deficit. There is a real concern about out-of-control spending by the federal government, and voters are nervous,” Selzer said.
Taking a pulse on health-care reform she says is, “one more way of getting a metric that shows that people are unhappy and nervous. He gets a better number on how he’s dealing with the economy, but it’s not just that. Specifically people are worried about the spending.”
Iowa is a proving ground for any politician looking to win over the rest of the country.
“Many things begin and end in Iowa. What Obama did a few years ago was redefine who is in the Iowa caucus — the number of people at the Democratic caucus in 2008 was roughly doubly the number in 2004,” Selzer pointed out. “For many of those people it was their first time caucusing — these people are independents, they are not tied to any party.”
At the time of the 2008 elections, the Iowa independents signaled what was going to happen in the rest of the primary. “Remember, Clinton was winning when there was a closed primary — Obama did better in an open primary were people could walk in the door and register that day,” she says
Selzer admitted that it is hard to tell to what extent the latest Iowa poll will translate to the national level. In the midterm elections later this year voter turnout in many places will depend more on whether there is a contested Senate or governor’s race than how people feel about the president.
“How much this will be nationalized is hard to tell,” she said.
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