The most recent Gallup poll now shows President Obama’s approval rating falling below 40% for the first time. The Gallup poll, which is actually formulated using a three-day average of multiple surveys, shows just 39% of the public approves of the President’s job performance with 54% disapproving. The 40% floor is considered significant by many political analysts, who believe it is difficult, if not impossible, for a president to be re-elected with an approval rating below 40%. Of course, President Obama still has time to recover. President Reagan had an approval rating of 35% in 1983 before winning in a landslide in the 1984 election and President Clinton also fell below 40% before winning re-election in 1996. The important thing for President Obama is to recognize what is causing the downward trend and to try and recover over the next 15 months.
First, it is crucial to keep the Gallup poll in context. Other polls, including the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports, still have President Obama above the 40% mark. A Real Clear Politics average of polls currently has 43.4% of the population approving of President Obama with 50.5% disapproving. Those numbers are down over the last few months, but certainly not down as much as Gallup’s poll. Gallup’s polls are also known to swing greatly, so we should be cautious in putting too much weight on one result. In general, pollsters like to look at trends involving many polls as opposed to one poll on one date which may be an outlier.
Still, there is no denying that President Obama has lost a good deal of support since the “bin Laden bump” earlier this year. In late May Gallup showed 47% of the population approving of President Obama’s job performance with just 44% disapproving. Real Clear Politics average of polls has also shown the President’s approval rating going down over the last few months.
So what explains the drop in the President’s poll numbers? According to Gallup, the President has lost support from his Democratic base (from 79% to 72%) and from independents (from 41% to 34%). The President’s approval rating among Republicans has actually gone up in recent weeks (from 12% to 13%). Gallup also notes a decrease in Americans confidence about the economy after the debt ceiling debate and the recent volatility on the stock market.
The President’s support has never been high among Republicans, but he has managed to stay above 40% thanks greatly to foundation of support from his liberal base that has refused to give way over the past two years. It now appears that this foundation is being eroded by continual compromises with Republicans on taxes and spending. The President reportedly offered Republicans a “grand bargain” deal which included $3 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for only $1 trillion in new revenue. The proposal would have raised the eligibility age for Medicare, a program that is valued greatly by liberals. Republicans ended up rejecting that deal, and the President instead signed a package that included $2.4 trillion in mandated spending cuts and no new revenue.
The philosophy of President Obama and his team has consistently been to try and compromise and appeal to moderates who despise extremism from either side. The President’s team has, at time, disregarded the concerns of liberals with the apparent belief that they will support him in 2012 anyway. However, it appears that in an effort to appeal to the moderates President Obama is losing not only his base, but also the population of moderates they were trying to capture. In an effort to heal broken finger the Obama administration appears to be cutting off their own arm.