More Americans unhappy with Obama on economy, jobs

July 26, 2011

More than a third of Americans now believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy, and confidence in his ability to create jobs is sharply eroding among his base, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But Americans’ discontent does not stop there. The survey also found that Americans harbor negative feelings toward congressional Republicans. Roughly as many people blame Republican policies for the poor economy as they do Obama. But 65 percent disapprove of the GOP’s handling of jobs, compared to 52 percent for the president.

The dissatisfaction is fueled by the fact that many Americans continue to see little relief from the pain of a recession that technically ended two years ago. Ninety percent of those surveyed said the economy is not doing well, and four out of five report that jobs are difficult to find. In interviews, several people said that they feel abandoned by both parties, particularly as debates over the debt ceiling gridlock Washington.

“What I’ve realized is it doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat anymore,” said Joey Wakim, 21, a used car salesman from Allentown, Pa. “We just want somebody who’s gonna get things right.”

The Post-ABC survey found that a majority of Americans still blame former president George W. Bush for the state of the economy. But it also found that Americans who identified most closely with the burgeoning tea party movement are more likely to have experienced lifestyle changes because of the downturn.

Rose Bear, 52, said her husband travels 800 miles round trip to work in North Dakota because there are not enough jobs near their home in Laurel, Mont. Bear said she supports the tea party in part because of its focus on taxes and employment.

“If you keep throwing up the taxes and busting the guy who’s employing you, people are gonna lose jobs,” she said. “They’re addressing the issue of the joblessness.”

The poll showed support for Obama’s economic agenda has begun to slip in the past nine months. The percentage of people who said Obama has made the economy worse jumped six points since October to 37 percent. That creates a bigger opening for Republican attacks as the presidential campaign begins to heat up.

The latest viral video by the Republican National Committee hones in on the jobs lost since Obama took office. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has made “Where are the jobs?” a catchphrase of his campaign. Tea party favorite Michele Bachmann made waves earlier this month when she proclaimed that she would create “real jobs” for Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner if she ousted them.

Still, Obama receives higher marks from crucial independents than Republicans when it comes to jobs. But appeasing his own party could prove to be a bigger challenge.

The Post-ABC poll found that the number of liberal Democrats who strongly support Obama’s record on jobs plunged 22 points from 53 percent last year to 31 percent. The number of African Americans who believe the president’s actions have helped the economy has dropped from 77 percent in October to just over half of those surveyed.

Justin Ruben, executive director of the progressive MoveOn.org, said many people are frustrated by the bitter partisan battle over raising the debt ceiling that has consumed Washington, calling it a “bizarro parallel universe.” Another liberal group, Campaign for America’s Future, said it is planning a national protest Tuesday urging a speedy resolution over the national debt in order to refocus attention on unemployment.

“Many liberal Democrats are hoping that Obama can pivot from defending Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid to putting forward his own plans for creating jobs,” the group’s co-director Roger Hickey said.

Wakim, the used car salesman, is among the self-identified liberal Democrats whose support of Obama has begun to falter. He said he spends as much as $80 on gas each week and has seen other bills rise while business is “hit or miss.”

Wakim said he has applied for a job as a police officer to help pay his bills while he attends community college. The economic downturn has changed his views on politics, and he said he wants Washington to buckle down.

“We’re focusing on too many things right now,” Wakim said. “Our biggest issue is the economy. People are hungry; people want work. Honest to God, it’s tough times.”

Related content:

More poll data from Behind the Numbers

Report: Wealth gap is wider than ever

Interactive: Growing share of income for the rich

Special Report: Breakaway wealth

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.
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