- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

President Obama vowed in his State of the Union address in January that he would not stand still.

And he didn’t. In the three months since then, he has fallen.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday confirmed a trend in other surveys: Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has eroded since January, when he announced that he would embark on a strategy of executive action to bypass a gridlocked Congress.

The poll found that 41 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Obama’s job performance — the lowest such rating of his presidency registered in the survey — and 52 percent disapprove. In January, the president’s approval rating was 46 percent in the same survey.

“These numbers are just flat bad for the president,” said Jon McHenry of the Republican polling firm North Star Opinion Research. “For all of his talk about executive action, I don’t think people are seeing actual results.”

On Jan. 28, the day Mr. Obama proclaimed in his speech the plan to use his presidential “phone and pen” more often, the gap in his approval/disapproval ratings on the Real Clear Politics average of polls was minus 8.1 percentage points. After hammering home that theme for the past three months, Mr. Obama’s overall negative rating has grown to minus 9.2 percentage points.

White House officials have not presented the executive-action strategy as a method to boost Mr. Obama’s popularity. Instead, they say, presidential moves such as the one to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors are aimed at achieving policy results for middle-class Americans.

Democratic strategists say another goal is to fire up liberal voters for the midterm elections, when turnout is typically weak.

A White House spokesman declined to comment Tuesday on the polling data.

Analysts generally believe Republican will keep control of the House after the elections, and many believe they are within striking distance of picking up the six seats needed to win back control of the Senate.

A survey released Monday by the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps showed potential trouble for the president’s party in swing districts, where 45 percent of Democrats approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of his job and 52 percent disapprove. The pollsters said unmarried women, a key target for Democrats, showed “limited interest in voting, as well as diminished levels of support for Democrats” in the poll.

The polling firm said the best Democratic strategy for base turnout this year includes talking about Obamacare but should focus “overwhelmingly” on economic issues.

“Health care messages are important to Democrats’ success, but messages with an economic agenda at the center are strongest,” Democracy Corps said in its survey, adding that Democratic candidates should link their opponents to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, as a foil for the president’s jobs agenda.

While Mr. Obama is encouraging Democrats to run proudly on the merits of Obamacare, a closely watched poll indicated Tuesday that the public views the health care law as an overall negative. The April Kaiser Health Tracking Poll said a late surge in Obamacare sign-ups had no effect on Americans’ views of the health care law, with 46 percent holding unfavorable opinions and 38 percent seeing it in a favorable light.

Kaiser said that is no different from last month, despite Mr. Obama’s celebration of 8 million people who signed up for private health care plans under his signature overhaul.

Still, 58 percent want their congressional representatives to try to improve the law and 35 percent want them to work on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

“As expected, Republicans are far more likely to say the law is still not working than Democrats, with independents in the middle,” the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said. “Among Democrats, though, about a third believes the law is still not working.”

While congressional Republicans view Obamacare as a way to motivate their base, Mr. Boehner showed Tuesday that they also are embracing an election-year strategy of trying to blame the president and Senate Democrats for failing to create jobs with projects such as the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“The president should pick up his phone and call Senate leaders to move these House-passed jobs bills that would provide better jobs for the American people, more jobs, and a higher standard of living,” Mr. Boehner said.

In the ABC/Post survey, Mr. Obama received low approval ratings for his handling of the economy (42 percent), Russia (34 percent) and the implementation of his health care law (37 percent). Two-thirds said the nation has gone “pretty seriously off track,” and 30 percent think the country is headed in the right direction.

Another emerging area of concern for Democrats is young voters, who helped propel Mr. Obama to victories in 2008 and 2012.

A survey released Tuesday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed that young adult voters are less motivated than at any other time since at least 2000. Less than 25 percent said they definitely would cast ballots in November.

Just 23 percent of those ages 18 to 29 said in the survey that they are certain to vote — 8 percentage points lower than what the poll found at a similar point before the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans won control of the House in a backlash over Obamacare and the president’s economic stimulus plan.

Worse for the president’s party, the poll found that young Republican voters are more enthusiastic than Democrats: 44 percent of those who voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 said they definitely would vote, compared with 35 percent of Obama voters.

There is more evidence that the sluggish economy continues to worry voters, which is usually bad news for the president’s party in midterm elections. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation said Tuesday that its monthly rating of fiscal confidence was 43 in April, down from 47 in March. “The April survey finds that Americans continue to have overwhelmingly negative views about the debt,” the group said.

The survey is modeled on the Consumer Confidence Index.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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