GOP poll: Two-fifths of Americans say Obama is ‘very liberal’

August 27, 2012

TAMPA -- Four years after President Obama was elected as transformational figure ready to unite the country, a new GOP poll shows Americans by and large see him as being pretty liberal.


Thirty-nine percent of the country sees Obama as being "very liberal," according to a new survey from the Republican polling consortium Resurgent Republic released on the first day of the Republican National Convention. The poll also shows, for maybe the first time, voters rate Obama's personal qualities less favorably than his job performance.

The number of Americans who view Obama as being "very liberal" increased slightly from a few months ago, when 36 percent said the same of the president. And, perhaps most notably, the number of people who think Obama is very liberal is significantly higher than the number of voters who view Mitt Romney as being "very conservative" -- 26 percent.

In other words, Obama is viewed as more partisan/extreme than his challenger.

The poll also shows the president's favorable rating is now (slightly) worse than his approval rating -- a new development in the 2012 campaign.

The former measure is considered more of a measure of character and personal qualities, while the latter is a measure of job performance. And Obama's favorable rating has often been where he excelled.

Even when the economic recovery stalled and the president's approval rating dropped, his favorable rating remained high for a while -- as many as 10 points higher than his approval rating -- because people generally liked him as a person.

That advantage seems to have waned as economic fears have dragged on and the 2012 campaign has ramped up -- an effort that has required Obama to go negative on his GOP opponent. Other recent polling has also shown Obama's favorable rating dropping to basically on-par with his approval rating.

Obama still remains more personally popular than Romney, whose favorable rating is 44 percent in the poll. But while it seemed before that Obama's power of personality and personal appeal might put him over the top in a close race, it now appears that this race is going to be won the old-fashioned way: hard-nosed politics and rallying the base.

The same goes for his "very liberal" rating. The Obama campaign has made strides to make the election about the role of government, but that seems to have pushed him to the left in voters' minds.

(Indeed, the Post's polling team wrote about Obama's big-government image this morning.)

One caveat with all of this: This is a Republican poll. But many of its numbers -- including the head-to-head ballot and the candidates' personal numbers -- are on par with other polls. In addition, Resurgent Republic releases the full results of its polls, rather than cherry-picking the best numbers and promoting only them. (A close analog on the Democratic side is Democracy Corps.)

If its results square with the on-the-ground reality of the campaign, it's become pretty clear that the president seeking reelection is viewed as a far different man than the one he was four years ago.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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