Obama’s liberal problem?
President Obama’s terrible past week was capped off by a fresh round of friendly fire at the Netroots Nation conference, where keynote speaker (and former Obama adviser) Van Jones voiced his disappointment with Obama.
“We like this president, but we’re not in love with him like we used to be,” said Jones. “We went from having a crush to feeling crushed.”
Rather than cheer Obama, Jones and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean emphasized the importance of preventing a Republicans and tea party win in November, with Dean calling such an outcome “unthinkable.”
The speeches – along with new revelations of Obama’s struggle to satisfy Hispanic and gay groups – clearly signal dissatisfaction with Obama among some liberal activists. But insiders aside, has Obama’s standing worsened among liberal voters across the country?
Polling says yes but there’s few signs that liberal voters will waver from supporting Obama in November.
Obama’s 73 percent job approval rating among liberals in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll is 14 points lower than when he took office. And the percent that strongly approve – initially at 66 percent – has been below 50 percent for a year and a half.
A Pew poll last fall found more than a third of liberals said Obama made them feel “disappointed,” peaking at 48 percent among those who called themselves very liberal.
But in a matchup against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, liberal voters are just as lopsided in their support for Obama as they were four years ago. Obama leads Romney by an 88 to 12 percent margin among liberal voters in a May Washington Post-ABC News poll, almost identical to his 89 to 10 percent margin over Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008, according to the network exit poll.
Liberal voters don’t seem to be as jaded as liberal activists. A 57 percent majority of Obama’s liberal supporters are “very enthusiastic” about his candidacy in the latest Post-ABC poll; 62 percent of this group was highly enthusiastic in June of 2008.
And there’s little evidence that they plan on voting for Obama simply to avoid the alternative. An April CNN/ORC poll found just two in 10 liberal Obama voters saying they were mainly “against Romney,” while eight in 10 said they were “for Obama.”
Liberals’ enthusiasm for Obama is also comparable to conservatives’ excitement for George W. Bush in 2004, when 60 percent said they were very enthusiastic. This year, just 31 percent of conservative voters are excited about Romney’s candidacy.
Poor relations with liberal activists could cause Obama problems raising campaign donations or winning endorsements this fall, but these polls are an important reminder that intraparty skirmishes don’t always indicate broader weakness among ideologically driven voters.