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Saturday, August 27, 2011

AP Poll: Republicans unpopular, Obama needs to lead
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Digby did a fantastic job yesterday covering the latest Pew poll showing that Democrats are unhappy with Democratic leadership, and independents want Democrats to confront Republicans.

But Pew isn't alone. The latest AP poll confirms it as well. Essentially, the public still blames Bush and the Republicans for the recession, but is souring on the state of the economy and the Obama approach even as Democratic support for the President's stance is cratering. First off, the country's economic views.

More people now believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows, and confidence in Obama's handling of the economy has slipped from just a few months ago, notably among fellow Democrats.

The survey found that 86 percent of adults see the economy as "poor," up from 80 percent in June. About half — 49 percent — said it worsened just in the past month. Only 27 percent responded that way in the June survey.

Not surprising. But the public also still has a long enough memory to know that it's not President Obama's or the Democrats' fault exactly:

And more Americans still blame former President George W. Bush rather than Obama for the economic distress. Some 31 percent put the bulk of the blame on Obama, while 51 percent point to his Republican predecessor.

The willingness of House Republicans to hold the economy hostage hasn't gone unnoticed or played well with the American people, either:

Obama also fares better than Congress in the blame department. Some 44 percent put "a lot" or "most" of the blame on Republicans while 36 percent point to congressional Democrats.

But President Obama still doesn't come off smelling like roses by a long shot:

More than 6 in 10 — 63 percent — disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy. Nearly half, or 48 percent, "strongly" disapproved. Approval of his economic performance now stands at just 36 percent, his worst approval rating on the issue in AP-GfK polling.

And perhaps most importantly, the President is rapidly losing the support of Democrats:
Among Democrats, 58 percent approve of the president's handling of the economy, down from 65 percent in June. Among Republicans, approval dipped to 9 percent from 15 percent.

Just 51 percent consider Obama a strong leader, down from 60 percent in June and 65 percent following the capture and death of Osama bin Laden in May. In June, 85 percent of Democrats in the poll called him a strong leader. Now, the number is down to 76 percent...

Some 75 percent in the poll said the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 63 percent in June. Among Democrats, 61 percent chose "wrong direction" — up from 46 percent in June.

That's a full 15-point turnaround in the number of Democrats who think the country is moving in the wrong direction, and an 11-point turnaround in the number of Democrats who see the President as a strong leader. That's heavy base attrition, due almost entirely to the President's needless and pointless embrace of austerity in the last two months.

Democrats have a lot to celebrate in this poll, to be fair. Like the Pew poll, the AP poll proves that the public is not so easily hoodwinked as many pessimists like myself often believe. Republicans are suffering somewhat in the arena of public opinion due to their tactics (though those tactics remain beneficial for them in the long run), and the public still remembers that George W. Bush and Republicans drove up the deficit and were primarily responsible for the economic crash. And these numbers suggest that Barack Obama will likely survive and win re-election despite the bad economy by simply being a superior choice to the alternative.

But unless the White House and Congressional Democrats show more of a fighting spirit, this sort of approach will do lasting damage to the Party's reputation of fighting for the average American, and cause much of the Party's base to move to issue advocacy at best, or quit the Democratic Party entirely at worst. When 1 in 4 Democrats don't approve of the President's leadership, that's a pretty big revolt brewing.

Hardcore supporters of the Administration would love to lay this decline in base enthusiasm at the feet of "emoprog" bloggers, which is fairly laughable. I would love to believe that a quarter of the entire Democratic Party regularly reads Hullabaloo and other blogs fairly critical of the Administration. That would be amazing. But, of course, that's not true. The reality is that the more reasonable progressive bloggers are just the canary in the coal mine who see these things early and are out in front of the trend. They tend to have been skeptical of both the Clinton and Obama campaigns during the presidential primary, but ultimately more distrustful of Clinton due to her Iraq War stance and DLC ties. That stance was borne out by the votes of the Democratic base. They tend to have cut Obama a great deal of slack during his first couple of years in office, but started to grow increasingly cynical particularly during the healthcare debate when single-payer was not even on the table as a negotiating position even as the Administration cut big deals with PhRMA. Progressive bloggers were ahead of the Democratic base in being discontent with the ACA because it was too corporatist and did not go far enough to assure progressive outcomes.

And ultimately, that cynicism has grown to outright hostility as the President needlessly embraced austerity. And once again, reasonable progressive bloggers were ever so slightly out in front of base Democrats in making clear their dissatisfaction about the President's leadership.

The President and the Democratic Party leadership in general needs to get moving quickly to begin repairing the damage. They can start, among other things, by not pressuring New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to give the banks blanket immunity over foreclosure fraud, and by helping him to hold the big banks accountable instead. It's a move that would be popular with both independents and the Democratic base. Nor would it really hurt the economic recovery, either, since immunizing the banks against prosecution in a vain attempt to re-inflate an overpriced housing market won't do a thing for the economy, either.

In any case, the message coming out of the AP and Pew polls is fairly clear: Republicans are unpopular, and both independents and base Democrats want the President to fight harder to check them in check. The only question is whether the President and his advisers will listen.