New national poll numbers from ABC/WaPo:
Public confidence in President Obama's leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to health-care reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
According to the same poll,
the president's overall approval rating stands at 57 percent, 12 points lower than its April peak, as disapproval has ticked up to 40 percent, its highest yet. On specific issues, Obama received more mixed marks. A majority, 53 percent, now disapprove of his handling of the federal budget deficit, and his ratings on health care continue to deteriorate. On the marquee issue of the economy, 52 percent approve of his actions, unchanged from June.
Amid the bad news (and there 's plenty of that on health reform), there's also good news. 57 percent? Let's see, that's 6.5% higher than the pollster.com average, and one of the better recent numbers for Obama.
On the economy:
But there has been a notable increase in optimism about the length of the recession: Half of all Americans expect it to be over within the next 12 months. In February, just 28 percent said the recession would end that rapidly.
Obama's economic stimulus plan has come under attack from Republicans, who say it has failed to bring tangible benefits. But in the poll, almost twice as many say the program has made things better as say it has made things worse (43 percent to 23 percent), with a third saying the plan has had no effect.
Put that in the bank for later this fall. "They said that about the economy, and look where we are..."
Despite the decline in general confidence in Obama, there is still little competition in the battle for public trust: Just 21 percent say they think congressional Republicans will make the right decisions for the country's future, while 35 percent have confidence in Democrats.
But even though the Republicans are no alternative, there's erosion of positioning on health care specifically and leadership in general. The public has become very skeptical about what DC is up to. Seniors and independents are most skeptical:
Disapproval of Obama's handling of the health-care issue reached 50 percent in the new poll, the highest of his presidency, and 42 percent of those surveyed say they now "strongly disapprove" of the way he is dealing with his main domestic priority. Views of the president's actions on reform have dropped most sharply among seniors and independents.
The poll, with a MoE of +/-3 reflects a lack of direction and momentum, and with Obama going on vacation for another week, expect little change in the Big Mo until September. But nothing spells success like success, and these numbers, anchored by the economic ones, are subject to change based on what happens next.
It would behoove Blue Dogs and conservative Dems to pay attention, not in the sense of what it means to Obama's future, but to their own. If they can help forge a health care bill, they will get the benefit. If not, they will likely be the first to go in any mid term loss. But this drama isn't nearly played out yet. Even in this poll, change is favored (see chart, right), the President's job approval is strong and there's no opposition (this is "afraid of change", not "prefer Republican alternative".) The number, as always, to watch is whether "change" means "worse". As long as "same" + "better" trumps "worse", the public is persuadable no matter how skeptical Republicans are.
"Change we can believe in" has been temporarily replaced by "afraid of change". But amidst the clearly softening poll numbers are a 57% job approval and approval of economic handling and conditions (which will be a fall foundation), softer but still majority desire for change, and a complete lack of confidence in Republican alternatives (of which there are none.) The softening appears to be with seniors and independents, but in the new ABC/WaPo poll, 40% or less think health reform will make things worse for them, 56% (or more think "no change or "better".) In fact, most people (56%) think it will be easier to get insurance, and only 41% think their own costs will go up. Those are not terrible numbers given there's no actual bill. Overall, this suggests a great deal of work to do (which won't get done in August), and a story whose last chapter has not been written.
Getting a bill passed (and I do think a bill will pass) will likely reverse much of the softening, but will cost Obama plenty of political capital. Still, that's what political capital is for.