Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 3, 2011 11:59 AM

President Obama

The President’s job approval rating has hit a new low of 38%. He now ranks 8th of 9, when matched against the previous 8 Presidents at this point of their 3rd year in office. [Based on Gallup surveys]

Approve Disapprove
G Bush (I) 72% 22%
Eisenhower 71 16
Kennedy 62 26
GW Bush (II) 59 37
Nixon 49 38
Clinton 43 43
Reagan 43 46
Obama 38 55 (8/25-27)
Carter 32 54

The following are several other cuts at the President’s job approval rating. The August surveys below were completed very early in August. The Gallup survey was taken at the end of the month.

August 2011 --- 48/47% --- 44/54%
July 2011 47/48% --- 47/48% 45/54%
June 2011 62/29% 48/43% (CBS) 47/49% 48/48%

Pretty clearly, August was not a good month for the President.

Here is how the President’s handling of various issues is rated by the public.

  Approve Disapprove
Budget deficit 35% 64%
Economy 36 63
Gas prices 36 61
Taxes 40 59
Unemployment 40 59
Immigration 43 53
Same-sex marriage 43 47
Abortion 44 44
Health care 46 53
Afghanistan 50 49
Education 55 41
Environment 57 39
Terrorism 60 38
[AP-Gfk 8/11]

The public is much more positive about the President on a series of personal and leadership characteristics, than they are about how he is doing his job.

Obama ... Favorable Unfavorable
Is a likeable person
54% 45%
Will keep America safe
78 21
Cares about people like you
55 45
Understands problems of ordinary Americans 53 47
Is a strong leader 51 49
[AP-Gfk 8/11]

In a late August survey, PEW measured the movement (or lack of movement) of public attitudes toward Obama on several indices of leadership between January and August 2011.

  January August
Able to get things done 54% 44%
Strong leader 53 49
Well informed 64 63
Warm and friendly 70 70
Trustworthy 58 59
Cares about people like me 60 63
Good communicator 75 75

The ratings above suggest that, while folks still like and respect the President, many folks, wonder whether he is up to the job.

When asked whether the President deserves to be re-elected, the public splits 47% yes/48% no. [AP-Gfk 8/11]

Even though Obama is not currently at the top of the popularity chart, it does not follow that the Republicans are in good shape. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Republicans are seen in a worse light than the President. One of the impacts of that reality is that 64% of registered voters describe the Republican candidates (including Perry) as only fair or poor. [PEW 8/11]

Every now and then someone raises the specter of President Obama being challenged from the left in the Democratic primary. This is a non-starter. 63% of Democrats, including 63% of liberals, do not want him to be challenged. [Pew 8/11]

The President is faced with the reality that desperate times make for desperate choices.

Facing re-election tends to focus the attention of public officials on that endeavor, driving them to make decisions based on what is in their best interest. Obama is no exception. After asking, in 2008, that an independent committee designed to support him in 2008 be shut down (it was closed), he seems to have no objection to the organization of such a committee supporting him in 2012. It is unlikely that the folks who have organized the effort, some of whom worked for him in the White House, would have done so without his at least tacit approval.

As with First Ladies before her, Michelle Obama is seen very favorably in the eyes of the public. 70% view her favorably and only 24% unfavorably. [AP-Gfk]

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