Obama’s likability succumbs to political gravity

October 31, 2013

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Now, it's personal.

Gone are the days when President Obama could count on the public holding him in high personal regard, even if they don't like the job he's doing as president.

Americans hold a more negative personal view of Obama for the first time in his presidency in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. Just 41 percent say they have a positive view of the president, while 45 percent say they view him negatively.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows a decline in Obama's personal popularity. In the survey, Obama's favorablity (50 percent) is virtually indistinguishable from his job approval rating (48 percent). In the NBC-WSJ poll, Obama's job approval is 42 percent, just about even with his personal likability.

The numbers mark a notable shift. For most of his presidency, Obama's personal popularity has outpaced his job approval rating. The public's attitude has generally been akin to: "Well, he may not be doing a terrific job, but I still like the guy." The following chart illustrates this posture.


Obama's personal popularity has carried him through tough times and was no doubt an asset for him in the 2012 election. While things may turn around for the president, the current trend does not look good for him.

There doesn't appear to be any one overarching reason, policy or political decision to explain the drop in Obama's popularity, say the NBC-WSJ pollsters. More likely, it's a combination of time and recent political crises like Syria, NSA surveillance, glitches with the health-care law rollout, as well as the standoff over the budget.

Whatever the reason, it's growing increasingly clear that Obama — for now at least — is no longer Mr. Popularity.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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