Americans have lost confidence in President Obama’s ability to get things done, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday. But after public fights to avoid sequester budget cuts and pass new gun-control laws have stalled, Obama has also garnered some sympathy — two-thirds say he fights hard for his policies, and twice as many blame Republicans leaders in Congress than Obama for a lack of compromise in Washington.
Just 49 percent of the public says Obama is “able to get things done,” down from 57 percent in January and closer to his levels of confidence in 2012. But the vast majority of Americans, 67 percent, believe Obama is fighting hard for his policies, a quality that has been questioned in the wake of legislative setbacks.
On the most important issues facing the country, fully eight in 10 say that Obama and Republicans are not working together. Roughly twice as many blame Republican leaders in Congress for the not working together as blame Obama (42 percent vs. 22 percent), tying the widest margin in Pew Research polls since 2009. One reason for the gap: 70 percent of Democrats blame Republicans, but only 53 percent of Republicans blame Obama.
It’s unclear whether Republicans’ blame deficit will have any electoral consequence. Voters are 18 months from the next congressional election, and it’s not clear a lack of compromise would tilt the electoral scales even if it were sooner. Republicans also were blamed more than Obama in early 2010, but later that year gained 63 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.
The lack of compromise does have clear consequences for Obama, whose chances of executing his agenda become more difficult as the 2014 midterm elections approach. Without that, Americans’ belief that he is “trying hard” may provide little solace.
Scott Clement is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.