Obama approval rating takes dive as he faces anti-business charge

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama’s approval rating has shown major slippage in recent days and weeks, but has dipped noticeably this week as questions of whether he is anti-business have grown louder.

A new poll out Friday showed a new benchmark: a majority of Americans now disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The Economist/YouGov survey of 1,000 U.S. citizens from July 3 to 6 showed that 52 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance. And Obama’s approval in the poll was at 43 percent, a concerning number for the White House.

Gallup’s daily tracking poll, which averages all polls over the last three days, showed Obama Friday at 44 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval.

The Real Clear Politics polling average, which measures Obama’s approval rating over the last three weeks, shows Obama at 46.3 percent approval and 47.9 disapproval.

The polling shows a clear dive downward in recent days, in a week when the political conversation has shifted decisively to the question of whether Obama is anti-business and whether his signature agenda items — sweeping changes to the health care system and the financial regulatory architecture — have created uncertainty for the business sector that is keeping nearly $2 trillion in cash reserves on the sidelines.

White House officials have said numerous times that they don’t allow themselves to get distracted by day to day fluctuations in polling. But there are indications they are paying closer attention than ever before. In late May, the RCP approval average for Obama became a daily fixture at the top of the internal news digest distributed to all White House staff, according to one administration source.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made the case Thursday that business should be grateful to Obama for a series of initiatives and that they were being unduly influenced by occasions when the president has used populist rhetoric to lambast private sector greed.

“Rather than respond to atmospherics, they should look at policies where we have been supportive,” Emanuel told Politico.

Emanuel cited several things as evidence that Obama is pro-business: his verbal support for trade liberalization in the face of union resistance, his decision not to nationalize banks in 2009, the auto industry bailout, the decision not to pursue a government-run “public option” in the health care bill, big contracts for business in the 2009 stimulus bill, and the financial regulation bill because it will take away uncertainty.

Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner rebutted each of Emanuel’s points in a press release.

The Boehner release said of Obama’s free trade rhetoric: “that plus a buck will get you an icy-cold Coca-Cola from the vending machine” and cited the administration’s failure to move any of the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Blair Latoff said “overregulation in Washington – from health care, to energy, to financial reform – is strangling job growth.”

“Instead of focusing on ways to create the 20 million jobs our nation needs, we’re seeing Washington heading on an ill-advised course of government expansion, massive tax increases, huge deficits, and job-destroying regulations,” Latoff said. “If we don’t act now to reverse course, we will continue to see widespread unemployment and massive government debt.”

Obama, once again Friday, combated the idea that he has a big-government agenda, in a speech in Nevada.

“I believe the greatest generator of jobs in America is our private sector,” Obama said, according to prepared remarks, adding that government’s role is “to break down barriers that are standing in the way of innovation.”

He touted the $2.3 billion his administration has spent to give manufacturing tax credits that incentivized clean energy companies to expand and build new projects, and he called on Congress to devote $5 billion more to the project. Obama said another $5 billion would create as many as 130,000 jobs.

On the large economic picture, Obama has said that the U.S. economy lost three million jobs during the last half of 2008, and that while growth is not coming fast enough, 600,000 jobs have been gained back over the last six months.

Boehner countered Friday with the fact that since February 2009, when the $862 billion stimulus became law, more than three million private sector jobs have been lost but the federal government has added 400,000 jobs.

The Boehner release said this undercut Obama’s claim that he believes in the private sector as the engine of growth.

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