Obama failing to appease base, draw independents
Disapproval rating climbs to 50 percent
President Obama’s support is eroding among elements of his base, and a yearlong effort to recapture the political center has failed to attract independent voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, leaving him vulnerable at a moment when pessimism over the country’s direction is greater than at any other time since he took office.
The president’s effort to seize the initiative on the economy was well received by the public, and clear majorities support crucial pieces of his new job-creation program. But despite Obama’s campaign to sell the plan to Congress and voters, more than half of those questioned said they feared the economy was already in or was headed for a double-dip recession, and nearly three-quarters think the country is on the wrong track.
Republicans appear more energized than Democrats at the outset of the 2012 presidential campaign but have not coalesced around a candidate. Even as the party’s nominating contest seems to be narrowing to a race between Mitt Romney and Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a majority of their respective supporters said they have reservations about their candidate. Half of the Republicans who plan to vote in a primary said they would like more choices.
A snapshot of the Republican Party, four months before the first primary ballots are cast, shows that voters are evenly divided between preferring a presidential nominee who can defeat Obama or one who aligns with them on most issues. A majority of voters who support the Tea Party movement place a higher priority on winning back the White House.
The Republican primary campaign is unfolding in a more conservative electorate than four years ago, with 7 in 10 Republican voters calling themselves conservative and one-quarter calling themselves moderate.
The poll, conducted after Obama’s economic address to Congress last week, contains considerable warning signs for the president. The poll found a 12-point jump since late June, to 43 percent, in the number of Americans who said the economy is getting worse. And, for the first time since he took office, his disapproval rating reached 50 percent.
“I don’t disapprove of Barack Obama as a person, but as a president he has disappointed me greatly,’’ said Ann Sheets, 69, a Democrat from Chattanooga, Tenn., speaking in a follow-up interview.
Sheets added, “I’m realistic enough to know how difficult it is, and I am not against compromise, but I voted for a backbone. You have to draw some lines in the sand, and I don’t think he has done that.’’
The poll found a 43 percent approval rating for Obama. It is significantly higher than for Jimmy Carter, who had an approval rating of 31 percent at a similar time in his presidency, according to the Times and
The president’s support has fallen to its lowest levels across parts of the diverse coalition of voters who elected him, including women, suburbanites, and college graduates. A persistent effort over the past year to reclaim his appeal to independent voters has shown few signs of bearing fruit, with 59 percent voicing disapproval.
While Obama has not succeeded in winning over independent voters, who make up the most influential piece of the electorate, neither have Republicans. The field is largely unknown to independents, and few have a favorable opinion of any candidate.
As the Republican Party experiences something of a reinvention, with Tea Party activists often clashing with the party’s weakening establishment, the poll found an electorate that is not entirely in step with the campaign messages of the party’s candidates.
More than 8 in 10 Republicans voters would like to see the national health care law repealed, at least in part. About half say illegal immigrants should be deported, rather than offered a chance at citizenship or an opportunity to serve as guest workers.
Yet in stark contrast to the positions taken by some presidential candidates, three-quarters of Republicans say global warming exists, as a result of human activity, natural patterns in the environment, or both. Nearly 6 in 10 favor allowing same-sex couples to either form civil unions or marry, and only one-third support a ban on abortion.