Americans Disapproving Obama May Enable Republicans

By John McCormick and Catherine Dodge
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 12:00 AM

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Americans disapprove of U.S. President Barack Obama's handling of almost every major issue and are deeply pessimistic about the nation's direction, offering a bullish environment for Republicans in the November congressional elections.

A majority or plurality disapproves of Obama's management of the economy, health care, the budget deficit, the overhaul of financial market regulations and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted July 9- 12. In addition, almost 6 in 10 respondents say the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause. The Senate is scheduled to begin voting on the financial regulation bill today.

Almost two-thirds say they feel the nation is headed in the wrong direction, an even more sour assessment than in March when 58 percent felt that way. Two-thirds of independent voters are pessimistic, while just 56 percent of Democrats offer a vote of confidence.

"They don't see any solutions in sight," said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide survey. "They have been hammered by the economy and there is a disconnect between the lives Americans are living and Washington. They seem to have lost hope."

Poll respondents are divided on their congressional preference between Democrats and Republicans, with both sides getting 43 percent support. Among those who say they are most likely to vote, Republicans are favored, 48 percent to 40 percent. The Republican advantage is even greater among likely voters who view the election as exceptionally important, with Republicans beating Democrats 56 percent to 34 percent.

For the Democrats, who control Congress and the White House, the survey shows the potential for losses in November, when voters will fill all 435 House seats, 36 Senate seats and 37 governorships. The outcome could affect Obama's ability to move his agenda through Congress for the two years leading up to his own 2012 re-election bid.

The fate of incumbents will depend to some extent on what happens to the economy in the next four months and whether unemployment drops much from its current 9.5 percent. A rising stock market could help as well. So far this year, the S&P 500 stock index has declined 1.8 percent.

The public's disenchantment with the president's policies doesn't extend to voter feelings about Obama himself, as he gets a job approval rating of 52 percent and personally is viewed favorably by 55 percent. Obama, 48, remains more popular than any of the Republican figures tested in the poll and is topped only by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, among a list of 15 people and political parties reviewed.

The only bright spot for Republican candidates is for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who gets a 32 percent favorable rating and an 18 percent unfavorable grade. Better-known party leaders such as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both have negative ratings that outweigh the positive views.

Although turnout in midterm elections is historically lower than in presidential races, the electorate is interested. Four- fifths of Americans who plan to vote say November's election is very or exceptionally important.

The likelihood to vote is strongest among older voters, Republicans and those with the highest incomes. Among those 55 and older, three-quarters say they will definitely vote, compared with 48 percent of those younger than 35. Four-fifths of Republicans say they will definitely vote, compared with 65 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents.

Seeking to capitalize on the intensity expressed by voters, Republicans want to make the election a national referendum on Obama and the party in power, while the White House and Democrats argue it is about going forward, rather than backward to failed policies.

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© 2010