As part of a reinvigorated effort to regain momentum as he heads toward the 2012 election year, Obama traveled to Detroit on Monday for a Labor Day appearance that served as a prelude to his speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress in which he will unveil new proposals to create jobs.
The urgency for Obama to act is driven not just by the most recent unemployment report, which on Friday showed no job growth in August and the unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent, but also by the depth of the political hole in which the president finds himself. Even more than two-thirds of those who voted for Obama say things are badly off course.
By this time in their presidencies, approval ratings for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — who also suffered serious midterm setbacks during their first term — had settled safely above the 50 percent mark. Both then stayed in positive territory throughout their reelection campaigns.
When ratings for George W. Bush slipped into the low 40s during his second term in office, they remained there or lower for the remainder of his presidency.
Obama does, however, rate better than do congressional Republicans, his adversaries in recent, fierce confrontations on federal spending. Just 28 percent approve of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their job, and 68 percent disapprove, the worst spread for the GOP since summer 2008.
When it comes to head-to-head match-ups on big economic issues, the public is deeply — and evenly — divided between Obama and congressional Republicans. Four in 10 side with both Obama and the GOP on jobs. There are similarly even splits on the economy generally and on the deficit. In all three areas, the percentages of Americans trusting “neither” are at new highs.
Nonetheless, current trends are highly unfavorable for the president. By 2 to 1, more Americans now say the administration’s economic policies are making the economy worse rather than better. The number who say those policies have helped has been chopped in half since the start of the year. The percentage of Americans disapproving of how Obama is doing when it comes to creating jobs spiked 10 percentage points higher since July.
Of the more than six in 10 who now disapprove of Obama’s work on jobs and the economy, nearly half of all Americans “strongly” disapprove.
On the deficit, which was at the heart of the pitched battle over the debt ceiling earlier this summer, Obama has reaped no dividends for trying to produce a compromise agreement with Republicans. Six in 10 disapprove of Obama’s work on the federal budget deficit, a percentage that is relatively unmoved in recent surveys and basically where it was a year ago.