Opinion: Crucial independent voters abandoning Obama, now under 40%, lowest ever


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Two new polls this morning augur ill for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats who control Congress.

The worst -- from Gallup -- finds that for the first time since Obama took the oath, his support among independents, a key voter segment in his decisive 2008 coalition election win, has fallen below 40%.

The new tracking finds that Obama’s support among all voter segments has declined in the past year, but nowhere more than among independents.


Only 38% now support him, an 18-point drop from 52 weeks ago, when polls first began showing the nation’s rapidly-growing population of independent voters peeling off, as Obama relentlessly pushed his healthcare plan and ignored polls saying jobs and the economy were uppermost on voters’ minds.

In that same time span, support for the Democrat has fallen 9 points among Democrats (from 90% to 81%) and 8 points among Republicans (from 20% to 12%).

Collectively, only 46% of Americans approve of the president’s job performance, just 1 point above his worst approval of 45%. Obama’s approval has not been above 50% since February.

Despite his professed success with the healthcare legislation, Obama is confronting a stubbornly sluggish economic recovery, continuing high unemployment, growing concerns over deficits and spending, impatience among some supporters such as gays and Hispanics and mounting casualties in his ongoing Afghanistan military campaign.

Other recent presidents suffered similar low ratings in their second year -- Jimmy Carter (40%), Ronald Reagan (42%) and Bill Clinton (43%).

And each of those presidents’ parties lost substantial numbers of congressional seats in the ensuing midterm elections.

George W. Bush’s experience ran counter to that pattern; his Republican Party actually gained seats in the 2002 midterm elections, the first time that had happened since Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first midterm election.

Reagan and Clinton recovered in the second half of their first terms to easily win reelection; Carter did not.


Also out this morning, a new Harris Poll of 2,227 adults finds widespread dissatisfaction and disenchantment with leading Democrats in Washington. Only 26% have a favorable view of Vice President Joe Biden’s job performance, while nearly half (45%) have a negative view of his job.

Only one-in-five approve of the job done by California’s own Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while nearly half (49%) give her negative reviews.

The public is happy with neither political party in Congress, with 54% disapproving of the majority Democrats’ job performance and 52% dissatisfied with the minority Republicans’ work.

You’ll never guess which female secretary of State gets the best reviews in the Obama Cabinet. Hillary Clinton’s job performance draws positive ratings from 45% of those surveyed, while 35% give her a negative job evaluation.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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