- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 21, 2009

For the first time in his presidency, President Obama’s job approval rating has slipped below 50 percent in the Gallup Polls daily tracking survey.

Mr. Obama dropped to 49 percent in the national survey conducted this week. Three other presidents have seen their job approval score drop below the symbolic 50 percent majority approval line faster in the post-World War II era: Presidents Ford, Clinton and Reagan.

Gallup analysts said the president’s slipping job approval score was largely due to deep division in the country about his health care reform plan and mounting unemployment that has risen to double-digit levels nationally and between nearly 11 percent and 15 percent in at least a dozen states.

“Although the current decline below 50 percent has symbolic significance, most of the recent decline in support for Obama occurred in July and August. He began July at 60 percent approval. The ongoing, contentious debate over national health care reform has likely served as a drag on his public support, as have continuing economic problems,” Gallup said.

Independent analysts predicted the number will have little impact on the presidents congressional agenda unless it moves substantially below 50 percent.

“Obama’s approval ratings have been stable for three months - in the low 50s. Gallup acknowledges in its release today that the latest measure of 49 percent is more a symbolic than substantive finding,” said Thomas Mann, senior analyst at the Brookings Institution.

“However, if it declines well below 50 percent, it will be a serious drag on the president’s agenda. For now, however, Democrats realize they have no alternative but to pass health care and hope for improved economic conditions a year from now,” Mr. Mann said.

Nevertheless, the latest dip in his approval rating comes at a difficult time in his presidency, when there is growing disapproval of his handling of the economy and the budget deficit, a fierce political battle over the Senate’s health care bill, and growing doubts within his own party about whether his economic stimulus program is working.

• Donald Lambro can be reached at dlambro@washingtontimes.com.old.

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