A poll released on Thursday found that President Barack Obama slipped with voters in August and is now upside down as he prepares to run for re-election in 2012.
The poll from Quinnipiac University found that a majority -- 52 percent -- of those surveyed disapproved of the job Obama was doing while 42 percent backed the president. In July, a poll from Quinnipiac found that 47 percent approved of Obamas performance in the White House while 46 percent disapproved. While Democrats continue to support him and Republicans remain opposed to him, Obama is upside down among independent voters. Only 40 percent of independents approved of the presidents job while 54 percent disapproved of his performance.
Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said these numbers should alarm the president and his supporters.
"President Barack Obama has hit a low 42 percent approval in the past, but this is his highest disapproval rating, said Brown. Ominous for him is that the share of voters who think he has strong leadership qualities has dropped from 64 to 33 percent in January to 50 to 48 percent now. Voters say, 54 to 42 percent, that he cares about their problems, but that is not impressive since it is a measure on which Democratic presidents historically rate well.
"When Quinnipiac University asked that question about Obama in November of 2008, he received a 70 to 22 percent positive score on understanding the needs of average folks, continued Brown. "The best news for the president is that voters still blame former President George W. Bush rather than Obama for the economy by 53 to 32 percent. One can only imagine what Obama's approval rating might look like if that ever changes.
The poll found that Americans of both sexes disapprove of the president. Only 39 percent of the men surveyed and 44 percent of the women surveyed approved of Obama. While 86 percent of blacks and 56 percent of Hispanics approved of the president, 61 percent of whites disapproved of him. Obama was upside down with all voters in the poll save those younger than 35.
"Men, whites and independent voters were the president's weak spots when his job approval was positive and those groups have progressed from being weak spots to being serious problems," said Brown. "Of course, the way to improve his standing among those voters is the same recipe for success among the entire electorate -- an improving economy."
As Brown noted, Obama is not being helped by the economy. Back in a poll taken by Quinnipiac in January, 36 percent of those surveyed insisted the economy was getting better while 20 percent said it was worsening. In the new poll, 49 percent maintain that the economy is worsening while only 11 percent maintain that it is improving. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed thought the nation was in a recession.
There was some good news in the poll for Obama: 44 percent thought the president would manage the economy better than would the congressional Republicans. Forty-one percent thought the Republicans in Congress would do a better job with the economy. When matched against Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry, 43 percent thought Obama would do a better job on the economy while 41 percent thought the Texas governor would. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who is also running for the Republican nomination, was more trusted on the economy than Obama. Forty-six percent thought Romney would do a better job with it, while 42 percent thought Obama would.
Despite Obamas poor approval, voters remained divided over the president, with 47 percent seeing him as favorable and the same number seeing him as unfavorable. That still puts Obama in better shape than congressional leaders. Twenty-two percent saw U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as favorable while 31 percent saw him as unfavorable. The GOPs leader in the U.S. Senate -- Mitch McConnell of Kentucky -- was seen as favorable by 14 percent and unfavorable by 23 percent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was seen in an unfavorable light by 36 percent while only 18 percent saw him as favorable. A clear majority -- 52 percent -- saw House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California as unfavorable while 24 percent saw her as favorable.
The tea party movement was upside down as well, with 42 percent seeing it as unfavorable while 29 percent thought it was favorable. Despite that, the tea party -- of which 12 percent of those surveyed said they considered themselves a member -- still did better than the two major parties: 51 percent saw the Democrats as unfavorable and 53 percent saw the Republicans as such.
"The tea party got a lot of negative publicity during the debt-ceiling negotiations and most American voters either don't like the group or don't know enough about it to make a decision," said Brown. "Voters do know the Democratic and Republican parties -- and they don't like either one."
The poll of 2,730 registered voters was taken from Aug. 16-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.