December 4th, 2009
11:56 AM ET
8 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama approval under 50 percent

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="President Obama's job approval rating has slipped below 50 percent according to a new CNN poll."]Washington (CNN) - Support for President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy is fairly high, but that hasn't stopped his approval rating from dropping below 50 percent for the first time in a CNN poll.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Friday, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing as president, with 50 percent disapproving. The 48 percent approval is a 7 point drop in approval from last month.

"The poll indicates that the biggest drop in approval comes from non college educated white voters," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's one indication among many that Obama's growing unpopularity may be more related to unemployment and the poor economy."

In fact, six in ten Americans questioned say they favor Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to that country. Two-thirds also support his plan to start removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 - although the poll indicates most Americans think that announcing that timetable in advance was a bad idea, and they are skeptical whether conditions in Afghanistan in 2011 will actually allow the U.S. to start drawing down troop levels.

Support for Obama's policies does not translate into support for the war itself; a majority still say they oppose U.S. action in that country.

"That may currently be a reflection on George W. Bush rather than Obama," says Holland. "Two-thirds say they blame the former president, not Obama, for the problems the U.S. currently faces in Afghanistan."

But the poll suggests the conflict is eventually going to become Mr. Obama's War, with 54 percent saying they will blame Obama, not Bush, for any problems the U.S. faces in Afghanistan in 2011.

The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, after the president spelled out his new Afghanistan policy in a prime time address Tuesday night at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Several late-November polls have indicated Obama's approval rating this low even before his speech at West Point. Weekly averages of national polls showed Obama's approval consistently at 52 or 53 percent from mid-October through mid-November.

"But in the week before Thanksgiving, his average approval rating slipped to 49 percent - solid evidence that something was going on before Obama announced his Afghan policy," adds Holland.

Obama's rating dropped 18 points among non-college whites, but only four points among whites who attended college - a good indication that the economy and other domestic issues are hurting the president.

Obama also dropped 15 points among whites under the age of 50, but only four points among older whites.

"That may partly be due to Afghanistan, but the young are also the group hardest hit when unemployment rises. The same is true for white women, whose approval of Obama dropped 12 points," says Holland.

Obama is not the first president to drop below 50 percent in his first year in the White House. That dubious honor goes to Ronald Reagan, whose approval rating dipped to 49% in November, 1981, and stayed below that mark for two years. Bill Clinton also dropped well below the 50 percent mark by May, 1993 - the fastest on record.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone, with 1,041 people questioned. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: CNN Polls • President Obama
soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. Ellen

    Polls change like the weather. You want to see Obama's polls
    skyrocket, let the GOP announce Sarah Palin as it's candidate.

    December 4, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC


    The dramatic change in jobs lost will help a little. Next month, when we see positive jobs growth (rather than negative) for the first time in two years, that will help (as will Christmas).

    When health care finally passes it will help a lot.

    Then there will be a State-of-the-Union address, which will give him a 5 point boost, and an olympic games which will give him at least 3 points.

    So going into the spring he'll probably be sitting very comfortably at over 55% again. During the spring and summer we should see constant jobs growth, which will help a lot (both for the poll numbers and more for us).

    By next fall he should be unassailable, and the right will be tripping over themselves trying to recant much of the BS vitriol they're spewing today.

    December 4, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. once upon a horse

    I think if anything President Obama tried to do TOO much TOO soon and now it's starting to come down on him a bit much. I think in this first year of office he should have focused on the economy and jobs, he should have left healthcare alone. It's the healthcare crisis that is bringing his numbers down because all the mis-information got out there first and the damage was done...right wing folks can't change their mind once a seed is planted. Plus now people in his own party are not in favor of this war...whereas the far right are in favor of it but refuse to support him on anything else. The economy is slowing starting to come bacl....job growth all though slow will start to come around. Healthcare is now his big problem and if they shelf it now it would called a failure and he needs no more of that.

    December 4, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. AEK

    Yep, not surprised at all. With the Republican hate at its highest level in decades, I'm sure Americans are getting very antsy about President Obama fixing the economy, Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Now, just because those haters had 7-8 years to break the economy, get us involved in one illegal war while ignoring an important one, and isolating us from the world community shouldn't affect their decision.

    December 4, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. lablue

    For a President to come into office with all the advantages that Obama had with unparalled media support , Hollywood cheering , and unprecidented celebration by a political party as a whole (In this case the Dems really out Demmed themselves) Obama has been a huge disappointment.

    The Rhetoric hasn't changed.Obama still hasn't learned that you can't just blame the previous administration in every speach and go for cheap applause lines with little or no detail over an entire year after you have been elected.

    If Obama wants to be a leader that he claimed he would be then he needs to be tougher on the Dems in congress and the Senate to actually make an effort to work in a Bi-partisan manner on the tough issues of today and realize that most of America realizes that Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Frank, Boxer, Dodd,Maxine Waters, and other Dems that are so outspoken in partisan ways just don't have a clue what they are doing aside from running for re-election.

    Time to lead Mr. President. Hard choices aren't about popularity or appeasing the Dixie Chicks who are dumber than a stump. Own up to your mistakes of the past in all of the above mentioned failing to heed the warnings of non other than the Bush Adminstration in 2001 and 2003 about the sub prime mortgage problems and issues with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and get to work.

    December 4, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Fitz in Texas

    In a few more months these numbers are going to look great to Obama.

    December 4, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Interesting that 48% still approve. Pretty close to the 47% of Americans who pay no federal tax. I bet there's a lot of overlap in these two groups.

    @Joe, 3 years before the last election no one would have bet on Obama either. There are plenty of Republicans who actually have executive experience who can run in 2012. If Obama keeps going like he is, it won't take a superstar to beat him. A telling statistic is his big drop among women and those under 50. these are both demographics that he carried by wide margins to win.

    December 4, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. IKHAN

    President Obama is an embattled president.
    The messy load of problems dumped into his lap especially the economic woes stemming from the two wars America is stuck with (thank you Bush, Chenye & Partners), are bogging him down.

    The ratings went down because he came in as a harbinger of 'Change" and people do not see that happening. Be it the Middle East perennial quagmire, Iraq, Afghanistan ,economy,health care, nothing seems to be happening. Staus Quo rules.

    He has to get out from under the menacing shadows of the lobbies,special interest groups ,allies who think USA is just a big milking cow & twist our arms whenever they feel like it. Do what the Constitution allows him to do for the people & to heck with the interests of the others. America & Americans should take priority over
    all else. If this starts happening America & its President would be again where its our right to be on this planet.

    December 4, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. shmeckel

    If it is due to the non college educated, does that mean the college educated people always disapproved of him. And if that is true, is it because people in college have to take economy classes and understand that if someone promises you more and says you are going to pay less, that something does not add up.

    December 4, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. FactCheck

    The lowest approval comes from non college educated white voters. This shouldn't be a worry since many of them don't have healthcare/jobs/education and will likely be dead in 2012.

    December 4, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. booger

    Biggest drop is by uneducated. That would be due to the simple fact the uneducated were the easiest for him to fool. Little to late now. We are forced to live with this huge mistake.

    December 4, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Disillusioned

    Goodness me, I am very surprised that President Obama's approval rating is even that high! Have there been a past president that have had to contend with the myriads of problems buffeting Mr President since the inception of his presidency? An economy in abject squalor. An opposition party hell-bent on scuttling his every efforts regardless. A bunch of no-good Republicans-in-Democrats clothing within his own party who relish nothing but any chance to show their Big Business paymasters what excellent nefarious inside jobs they are doing for their keep. Add to these our penchant for instant gratification which makes it very hard for us to understand why Mr President have not fixed within one year an economic mess more than eight years in the making.

    Good grief! I really thought that they would have done him in by now. There may still be hope for those of us who gave up a long time ago!

    December 4, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. Mike in MN

    It's at 48% and dropping.
    Obama has screwed up on just about everything.
    He lies and exaggerates how many jobs his dear stimulus has created and even refuses to correct the web site on known inaccurate statements on jobs created.
    He makes fun of Tea Party patriots who protest the massive growth in the deficits and now much latter speaks out against them himself. But does not acknowledge that the Tea Party protersters were or are correct in their concerns about the deficit. What kind of crap is that?
    He pretends climategate does not exist or matter when in fact climategate calls into question the very crediblity of the global warming science. Obama and the major TV networks can pretend climategate does not exist, but it is a big deal in many major newspapers and Fox News. Just about everyone knows about it and pretending it does not exist makes Obama look just plain stupid.
    Obama took months the come to a decision on Afganistan that almost no one likes.
    Obama is become a bigger faliure and joke by the day. One term and done.

    December 4, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. chelle

    In the first place, jobs are a lagging indicator in an economy. This means the recession can be started with out many jobs being cut at first, it also means that the economy can start to grow long before job cuts stop and rehires start. It is a "well duh" moment that jobs are still being lost. As for the President's popularity – actually I wouldn't want him making decisions based on his popularity so I find it reassuring that he is making unpopular decisions that seem well thought out. Maybe this means a President trying to do the right thing instead of trying to get re-elected 10 months into his term.

    December 4, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. aneanderthal

    He fooled a lot of people during the campaign and now they are seeing what the unions, ACORN and George Soros really shoved on the American people. Will go down as the most unpopular and worst president in our history thanks to the liberal wing nuts.

    December 4, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. Tina

    I predict Obama's approval rating will drop like a rock the closer we get to 2012.

    December 4, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. Obama..........

    ONE and DONE.

    Start the chant.

    Begin the drumbeat.

    December 4, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. PR

    I especially like the part about how this poll is more of a reflection of Bush (?), good try.

    December 4, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. Carl

    I think there is more smear going around on Obama than there has been in recent history for a President and on things that are not legitimate. People are raising fear in the most horrendous way to the extent it's getting scary. It's sad how racism and fear still run high in American.

    On a separate note, those who say to pull out of the war now are foolish. There are those out there that have been taught since birth to kill Americans and sadly a nice little talk with them isn't going to change their mind. When a liberal president decides to send more troops over you should realize how serious it is.

    December 4, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Reagan was wrong

    Every single one of these "Obama approval rating drops" posts inevitably gets inundated with the usual "people are waking up" and "how are hope and change workin for ya?" bromides that the right wing has become so fond of.

    CNN should really emphasize (and I mean in big bold red letters) that these dropping poll numbers are a reflection of disaffected liberals, otherwise the GOP base will interpret these articles as proof that support for their hateful, paranoid tea party movement is increasing, which only goes towards galvanizing the least educated and most heavily-armed segment of the population.

    December 4, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. Mar

    Please don't worry about approval ratings. You are doing a great job. It is not easy to put together a country that has almost fallen apart. We are all proud of you Mr. president.

    December 4, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |

    DOCTRINE RUNNING OUR COUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Romneys, Huckabees, and the McCain's, Grassley and the Boener's of our Governments HAVE GOT TO GO.

    Did ya see folks, how HAPPY the Republicans were to hear
    OBAMA extending the war in Afghanistan??? DID you see???

    And, the RICH HEALTH CARE companies running the "scare tactic"
    adds on T.V. are outrageous! They are "betting" on Americans to
    be really dumb a__ idiots!!!!! Which we are if we let them get away
    with not passing Health Care with a Strong PUBLIC OPTION!

    I am a senior and I am all for the Public Option for all. they don't
    scare me.

    December 4, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Susan

    President Obama's approval rating with me is 100%!

    December 4, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. John from LA

    Let's hope it goes WAY down and America gets this Bozo out!!!-as Mike from Syracuse said..."2012 can't come soon enough!"-AMEN!!!!\

    But all the Bots will say "Polls-Smolls"-BO-nice guy-not president material.

    @ Dominican Mama-where's your Always Present praise for BO now???

    December 4, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    In total agreement with Indy voter & Tom in Va there are so many issues being tackled by this President simultaneously AND effectively. I can almost see the 'bated breath' of the non-contributing, and quite frankly, flat-out lying detractors on this site waiting for Obama to make a significant mistake. Give credit where credit is due and maybe your comments might carry more weight. It would also help if the detractors kept their irrational and all too predictable spin into the land of NO FACTS ALLOWED down to a minimum. How can you expect to be taken seriously when you're still talking about the President's place of birth legitimacy. It's lunacy.

    Obama has and is doing more to help our country than ANYONE could've expected udner these circumstances. That's a fact. More people stand behind him and support him than those that wish for him and the country to fail. That's a fact. This is our country: yours and mine. That's a fact. Either piss or get off the pot, but stop being a hindrance, and a negative entity when it comes to the success of the USA. It's going to take a village to fix us. Be a part of it.

    December 4, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
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