Obama’s slide parallels that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose ratings also dropped steadily during his second term, although Obama’s 41% approval at this point – one year after his election – stands slightly higher than Bush’s 36%. By contrast, Presidents Clinton and Reagan maintained a relatively high level of popularity in their fifth years in office.
The president’s job approval numbers hit a high point in December and have slid steadily since then, with 41% now approving of his performance in office and 53% disapproving, the new survey shows. He has lost ground across the board, including among fellow Democrats. Although his approval in his party still stands at a healthy 78%, that represents a drop of 10 percentage points over the past year.
Among self-described independents, approval of Obama has dropped faster and further, with only 32% saying they approve of his job performance, down from 53% in December 2012.
As has been true almost throughout Obama’s presidency, the numbers divide sharply by race. In the latest survey, whites disapproved of Obama’s performance by 2-1, while blacks support him overwhelmingly, 82%-12%. Latinos also approve by a large, 60%-32%, majority. At the beginning of the year, whites were more closely divided while Latinos approved of Obama’s job performance 78%-15%.
On specific issues, the sharpest drop in Obama’s approval ratings comes in his handling of healthcare. Amid the botched rollout of his signature healthcare law's website, only 37% approve of his handling of the issue, the new survey shows, while 59% disapprove. At the beginning of the year, the public divided evenly on how Obama was dealing with healthcare.
But perhaps of greater concern to the White House, only 31% approved of Obama’s handling of the economy, which remains the most important topic in the minds of most Americans. Disapproval on that topic stands at 65%.
Obama also gets a sharply negative rating on his handling of immigration, with 32% approving and 60% disapproving. His efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation have stalled in Congress, disappointing supporters.
The only bright spot in his ratings come on dealing with the threat of terrorism, where 51% approve and 44% disapprove. By contrast, only 34% approve of his overall handling of foreign policy, with 56% disapproving.