Obama Approval Hits Nadir While Hillary Clinton Hits New High

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Two polls out yesterday seems to suggest that any negative blowback against President Obama on account of the U.S. military intervention in Libya may have to do with perceptions of strength or weakness as he led the nation into involvement in the military campaign against Qaddafi's air defenses, not so much direct opposition to the intervention as carried out, and that, whatever its causes, it is independents being more alienated.

A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday showed that voters disapproved 48 - 42 percent of the job President Obama is doing and said, 50 - 41 percent, that he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, both all-time lows in the university's tracking of the president. The survey "concluded Monday evening as President Obama was addressing the nation about Libya."

Drill down though and you'll find "Democrats approve 80 - 13 percent of the job Obama is doing, but disapproval is 81 - 9 percent among Republicans and 50 - 39 percent among independent voters." That actually represents a minor improvement for Obama among Republicans, who disapproved of his job performance 84 - 8 in Quinnipiac's March 3 poll. But it represents a loss of support among independents, who had disapproved of his performance 48 - 43 percent in the earlier poll. (Shift in sentiment among Democrats was negligible, with support running 81 - 12 in early March.)

American voters surveyed by Quinnipiac supported the actual U.S. role in Libya, saying "65 - 27 percent the U.S. should use military force to protect civilians from Gadhafi" and approving "53 - 35 percent of using cruise missiles to destroy Libya's air defense."

But a plurality also said, 48 - 41 percent, that "the U.S. should not use military force to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power" (Obama has pledged not to use force to remove Qaddafi).

Meanwhile, Gallup found that "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's favorable rating from Americans is now 66 percent, up from 61 percent in July 2010 and her highest rating to date while serving in the Obama administration. The current rating is just one percentage point below her all-time high rating of 67 percent from December 1998."

That previous high was partly in sympathy with her travails as first lady, after the Monica Lewinski scandal and impeachment of her husband.

The latest results were from a poll "conducted while the United States was actively involved in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, a policy Clinton reportedly advocated. The same poll finds Clinton rated more positively than other top administration officials. Obama receives a 54 percent favorable rating, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 52 percent, and Vice President Joe Biden, 46 percent," Gallup reported.

Whether the media portrayals have been wholly accurate or not, the intervention in Libya has often been cast as one pushed by Clinton on a reluctant President Obama, with Gates in opposition. Interesting that in its wake, Clinton's approval has reached a high for her post-first lady life, while the president's has ticked down to a new low.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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