We like Obama, but not as much as we used to

By Megan McArdle

In response to yesterday's comment that Obama has a lot of political capital to spend, a reader sends me this from the Wall Street Journal:



It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.

Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001. Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date.

Overall, Rasmussen Reports shows a 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president's performance. This is a substantial degree of polarization so early in the administration. Mr. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support, and the trend is decidedly negative.

A detailed examination of presidential popularity after 50 days on the job similarly demonstrates a substantial drop in presidential approval relative to other elected presidents in the 20th and 21st centuries. The reason for this decline most likely has to do with doubts about the administration's policies and their impact on peoples' lives.

Obviously, Obama has done more in his first fifty days than most presidents, and hence, has given people more reason to change their minds about him--I myself opined that it was only natural his high approval ratings couldn't last.  But I hadn't realized the landscape was changing so fast.  Still, I think the president has considerable political capital, and if it really is true that only Republican obstructionism stands between him and a fully staffed Treasury, he has enough juice to take on that obstruction and win.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/03/we-like-obama-but-not-as-much-as-we-used-to/1500/