- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The summer of the discontented voter steams onward and, unfortunately for President Obama, polls show voters are no longer blaming the bad times on the George W. Bush administration.

Add Hispanics to the growing list of Obama supporters disgruntled by aspects of the presidents performance, in what has become for the White House and Democrats a seemingly daily beat of gloomy polls.

Mr. Obama gets only lukewarm ratings on issues important to Hispanics in a Univision/AP poll released Tuesday, and, according to a separate Reuters-Ipsos survey, Americans overwhelmingly believe the president has failed to focus enough on job creation.

“A lot of these folks wouldn’t like him no matter what, but I think the country has pretty much the same problems it did before Obama took office — at least that’s how voters feel — and more and more that’s becoming Obama’s fault rather than Bush’s fault,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.

Support for Mr. Obama has eroded among whites, independents, men and now Hispanics, who were part of the coalition that powered him to the White House in 2008.

While the AP-Univision poll found that 57 percent of Hispanics still approve of Mr. Obama, it revealed deep skepticism among the key Democratic voting bloc. Only 43 percent of Hispanics said Mr. Obama is meeting their needs, according to the poll, while 32 percent were unsure and 21 percent said he has done a poor job.

The Reuters-Ipsos poll, also released Tuesday, found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 67 percent — do not think Mr. Obama has focused enough on creating jobs, compared with the administration’s emphasis on overhauling health care and rewriting the nation’s financial rules. The survey said only 34 percent approved of the president’s handling of the economy and jobs while 46 percent rejected it as unsatisfactory.

Pollsters said the drop is not unusual for a president confronting so many thorny issues, but that it does show voters want solutions and think Mr. Obama has had enough time to deliver.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs shrugged off questions about Mr. Obama’s sagging numbers Tuesday. With high unemployment and troops still engaged in two wars, he said, “It’s understandable that people are frustrated.”

But the numbers pose a more immediate problem for Democrats in Congress and in the states as the midterm elections loom. Other polls show Republican voters consistently more enthusiastic about voting this fall, as Democrats struggle to preserve their majorities in the House and Senate.

Mr. Gibbs said the tough decisions Mr. Obama has made, such as propping up struggling auto giants Chrysler LLC and General Motors Co., saved jobs even if they were unpopular.

Mr. Obama has argued at town-hall meetings that he isn’t governing by polls but is following through on what he promised during the 2008 campaign.

“That’s why stuff in Washington doesn’t get done, because people put their finger out to the wind,” he said while campaigning for Democrats in Missouri earlier this month. “People get surprised when we follow through and keep our campaign promises. It’s like, well, he went ahead and did health care. Why did he do that? I said I was going to do health care. It was the right thing to do.”

It’s not clear what impact Mr. Obama’s numbers will have on Democrats across the country this fall. He has made several campaign trips already and has scheduled a flurry of activity for this week, including a D.C. fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday night and another party fundraiser in New York on Wednesday.

Mr. Jensen warned that rank-and-file Democrats should be wary of appearing alongside Mr. Obama on the trail, noting that his polling firm’s numbers show the president would be a drag on Democratic candidates even in such places as his home state of Illinois.

An analysis in the Wall Street Journal of a year’s worth of Quinnipiac University poll data by Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, showed that large numbers of whites, men and independents have deserted Mr. Obama since his election. His support among whites slid from 51 percent in July 2009 to 37 percent in July 2010, from 52 percent to 38 percent among independents, and from 54 percent to 39 percent among male voters overall.

Mr. Brown said the loss in support among these key groups is problematic for Mr. Obama, but not surprising given the drop in his overall approval ratings from 57 percent a year ago to their lowest levels now at 44 percent, according to Quinnipiac.

“A year ago if you had told me that his overall numbers were what they are, I would have suggested the places he’d lose support first would be independents, men and whites. This isn’t rocket science,” Mr. Brown said. “This is just what happens to a Democratic president when his numbers come down overall.”

Mr. Obama fares slightly better when voters are asked about his handling of the war in Afghanistan. Polls this month show support ranging from 43 percent to 50 percent. But when asked how they view the war effort itself, voters say it’s going poorly.

A CBS News poll earlier this month found just 31 percent said the war was going “very well” or “somewhat well,” while 41 percent said the war was going “somewhat badly” and another 21 percent said it was going “very badly.”

Asked about support for the war Tuesday, Mr. Gibbs said public opinion matters when forces are in harm’s way, but stressed that the right decisions are not always popular.

“You can’t just decide that if it’s too hard to do something because public opinion is against it,” he said. “Obviously, while important, I don’t think it’s the only determinative factor.”

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