April 29th, 2014
09:54 AM ET
7 years ago

New low for Obama in key midterm indicator

Washington (CNN) - Call it anything but a warm welcome home.

As President Barack Obama flies back to the nation's capital after a week long four-country trip to Asia, he's being greeted with new public opinion poll numbers that are nothing to brag about. And an ABC News/Washington Post survey, coming just six months ahead of the midterm elections, backs up previous polling that suggests that the President and his policies remain a drag on the Democratic party.

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According to the survey, released Tuesday, 41% of Americans say they approve of the job Obama's doing in the White House, an all-time low for the President in ABC News/Washington post polling. And Obama's approval rating is down five-percentage points from the last ABC News/Washington Post survey, which was conducted in late February and early March.

2014 Midterms: CNN special coverage

The approval rating is considered one of the best gauges of a president's standing with Americans and of his clout with lawmakers here in Washington. And during a midterm election year, the approval rating is constantly under the national spotlight, as it's considered a key indicator of how the president's political party may fare on Election Day.

"It's what I call the north star of midterm elections, and that's the president's approval rating. You'll have polls jump up and down, you'll have issues rise and fall. The one constant if you look at history, to get a sense of where we're going, is the president's approval rating," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

The new number is similar to the latest Gallup Daily Tracking poll, released Monday afternoon, which indicated the President's approval at 43%. Obama's approval rating has hovered in the low to mid 40's this year in most non-partisan, live operator, national polling. That's slightly higher than where the President stood in November and early December, when his approval rating was at or near all time lows in many national surveys.

Obama's numbers are far below where they hovered early least year, soon after his second inaugural and just a couple of months removed from his 2012 re-election victory, when the President's approval rating stood at 52% in a CNN Poll of Polls.

But the President's numbers tumbled after late spring and summer following controversies over the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and congressional investigations into IRS targeting of conservative political groups. Then came October and the politically charged botched rollout of Obamacare, his signature domestic policy achievement. Coupled with legislative setbacks, many pundits labeled 2013 the worst year of Obama's presidency.

While the health care exchanges made improvements, and more than 8 million people signed up for coverage through the new law, the President has faced criticism of his handling of overseas hot spots year, such as the crisis in Ukraine. According to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 34% of the public approves of how Obama's dealing with the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, down eight points from early March.

How Obama compares to previous two-termers

Obama's approval rating is slightly better at this time in his presidency than his most recent predecessor, Republican George W. Bush.

"Low approval numbers usually spell bad news for the president's party. George W. Bush's rating was in the low to mid 30's in April of his sixth year and his party lost control of the House and Senate later that year. Richard Nixon got only a 26% approval rating in April of his sixth year and the GOP got hammered in the 1974 midterms," CNN Polling Director Keating said.

"On the other hand, high approval rating don't always help. Ronald Reagan's approval rating was at 62% in April of 1986 and remained that high throughout the year, but his party still lost seats in the House and lost control of the Senate in the 1986 midterms," Holland added.

The most recent two-term Democratic president, Bill Clinton, stood in the low to mid 60's in April of his second year of his second term. That November the Republicans lost five House seats to the Democrats but retained a narrow majority in the chamber. The GOP's ten seat advantage in the Senate remained unchanged.

2014 battle for Congress

The new poll indicates the two major political parties all tied up in the generic ballot, which asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. But among those who say they'll definitely vote in November, the GOP has a slight five point edge.

That number seems to back up the conventional wisdom that the GOP has an advantage over the Democrats in midterm contests, which traditionally have a much lower turnout than presidential elections. White votes and older voters,  key to the Republican base, tend to vote in bigger percentages in midterms than younger voters and minorities, who are an important part of the Democrats' base.

In another question in the survey, 53% of voters say it's important to have Republicans in charge of Congress to act as a check on the President's policies, with 39% saying it's more important to have Democrats in charge, to help support Obama's policies.

Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party), but are defending 21 of the 36 seats up in November, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

Key races to watch in 2014

Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats from the GOP to regain control of the House of Representatives. Political handicappers consider that a tall order, considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts nationwide.

The economy and health care

More than seven in ten questioned in the poll describe the current state of the economy in negative terms. And just 28% say they think the economy's getting better, with 36% saying it's getting worse and 35% saying it's staying the same. Two-thirds say the country's headed on the wrong track.

The economy, overall, remains the top issue on the mind of American voters.

Health care is also a major issue for voters this year, and Republicans are making their opposition to the federal health care law a signature part of their election year pitch.

The poll indicates that 44% support the Affordable Care Act, with 48% opposed. A majority (53%) say the quality of the health care they are receiving is staying pretty much the same, but a majority (58%) say that health care costs in the country are increasing due to Obamacare.

Whom Americans trust

The silver lining for the President and his party in the new poll: While his numbers are anything but impressive, the survey suggests Americans trust Democrats over Republicans in some key indicators.

By a 40%-34% margin, the public trusts Democrats over the GOP to handle the country's main problems. And by large margins, they see Democrats as better on middle class and women's issues. And they favor the positions of the Democrats over the Republicans on such issues as raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage, and dealing with global warming.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted April 24-27, with 1,000 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

 


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    While I won't make any predictions for 2014, the "polls" leading up to the 2012 election showed pretty much the same scenario, and we all know how THAT turned out. In the event anyone forgets: the Dems expanded their majority in the Senate, narrowed their minority status in the House AND won the Presidency – and all DESPITE the reichwing's most valient efforts to supress the vote.

    April 29, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh dear. Mitt Romney has the momentum going again, does he? Oh well. Come the day after mid-terms no doubt President Obama's numbers will be right back up where they've always been 48-51%.

    April 29, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  3. Gunderson

    Humm,
    Old Gunderson say 41 percent overly optimistic. But, we will see!

    April 29, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    It's only one poll taken from a specific demographic. The only thing that matters in this poll is that people trust democrats over republicans to fix our problems. Problems mainly created by republican policies.

    April 29, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  5. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Well when you're being told by the entire MSM Obama bad... What do you expect? Many in this country hate THIS POTUS and many of those same people are benefiting from his policies.

    April 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Peach

    Frankly, I'm surprised it is that high--I would have guessed around 30%. Pretty much a failed presidency all the way around......2016 can't come too soon.

    April 29, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Keep trying to get us not to vote in the midterms Foxlite. We will turn out in droves. Believe that.

    April 29, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    I guess that those negative ads being run by Koch funded groups are working as intended. Depending upon which polls you look at, the support and popularity of the ACA is down anywherer from 5 to15 points since March 31 sign up deadline. As popularity for the health care reform bill drops, so will the president's popularity drop.

    The polling that makes no sense to me is the presidents's unpopular handling of Ukraine. Most polled do not want a military engagement, yet most polled feel that the president is not doing enough, or even leading for that matter. I ask, why should we lead? The Russian incursion into Ukraine is almost exclusively a European problem, one which the Europeans themeselves will eventually have to confront.

    The European nations are not ready to commit to the type of tough economic sanctions against Russia because it can and will hurt them in return. The Europeans have allowed themselves to become heavily dependent upon Russia for energy. Puting is using that fear, that leverage to his advantage. He will continue to use it for as long as he can, possibly right up to their borders. There is only so much that Pres. Obama can do with the European hesitance. It seems that most people are still stuck in the "Bush Doctrine", where the United States can and would involve itself into every military conflict around the globe. Look at where that policy has brought us. We're a war weary nation, and heavily in debt from those policies. And, Republicans want to pick up where GWB left off.

    April 29, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  9. Lizzie

    Polls are nice, let's wait till November

    April 29, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    You see how he has sent those tornadoes to wipe out the PWT that voted against him in Arkansas....

    FIFY

    April 29, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    On the other hand, high approval rating don't always help. Ronald Reagan's approval rating was at 62% in April of 1986 and remained that high throughout the year, but his party still lost seats in the House and lost control of the Senate in the 1986 midterms,"
    -------------------------------------------------
    So, there you have it, another non-story dealing with the endless possibilities surrounding America's fickle electorate.
    Yawn.
    Get home safe Mr. President, we need you.

    April 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. smith1

    compared to two republican presidents who where lower, then saying regan was high in the polls but party lost. All a bunch of BS Lets see how mid terms goes. We are after all voting on congress and their numbers really stink.

    April 29, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. Name VA865

    AND what's YOUR POINT? The voters WILL decide in THESE midterms elections, so keep harping on the president LOW approval ratings..o

    April 29, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. gijames1225

    As bad as his ratings are, I cannot imagine the GOP presenting a significantly better alternative. They've been maligned and blamed (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly) for as much as Obama has been. Shame Americans are too simpleminded to look at third party alternatives that are not entrenched in the anti-Democrary establishment.

    April 29, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  15. Politique

    Such a shame. He's such a fantastic President and yet the majority of Americans are so obscured in a fog of Fox lies, they can't see what a great change he is for the country.

    April 29, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. Name jsmallz

    No surprise here. Where are the jobs that you promised us. Who cares about thw ACA. We need jobs.

    April 29, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. Wes

    Who are these 41% that approve? Probably the 41% that couldn't pass highschool

    April 29, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    "In another question in the survey, 53% of voters say it's important to have Republicans in charge of Congress to act as a check on the President's policies, with 39% saying it's more important to have Democrats in charge, to help support Obama's policies."

    "By a 40%-34% margin, the public trusts Democrats over the GOP to handle the country's main problems. And by large margins, they see Democrats as better on middle class and women's issues. And they favor the positions of the Democrats over the Republicans on such issues as raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage, and dealing with global warming."
    -------------------------------------
    This shows what conservative media has done to mindset of voters. On the one hand, Democrats are trusted far more than Republicans on almost every major issue. Yet, voters seem convinced that Republicans need to run the Congress in order to keep a check on the president's policies. What did Pres. Obama do to earn such a reputation?

    He got elected, and then he got re-elected. That's what he did. He campaigned the first time to pass a major health care reform law, and that's exactly what he did. Republicans demagogued Obama over The Stimulus, yet polling showed that it was exactly what most Americans wanted. "You helped Wall Street. What about Main Street?" Remember that one?

    April 29, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Chris-E...al

    With 20 million americans out of work should democrats reward 11 million illegal aliens and gypsies with benifits and lifetime work permits ? We think not . Dems want to ! You cant fix stupid but you can vote it out . Dems just want votes at our expense . .

    April 29, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    Name VA865
    AND what's YOUR POINT?
    -----------

    Apparently the MSM point is repetitive: continue to blast away at the President of the United States and follow up with polling data suggesting the anti-Obama messaging is registering with voters. It's been non-stop polling since 2009. Even when nearly all polls suggested Romney was going take the White House hands down ... which of course never happened ... the media has never let up on its propaganda polling.

    April 29, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. NateOLYWA

    We'll see in November!

    April 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    Name VA865
    AND what's YOUR POINT? The voters WILL decide in THESE midterms elections, so keep harping on the president LOW approval ratings..o
    --------------

    Two fold: continue the anti-Obama messaging and produce some polls that state the anti-Obama messing is working. Never mind that this has been going on since 2009 ... even suggesting right up until election day that Mitt Romney was headed for the White House ... the media has never wanted to give the impression that their polls are paid
    propaganda ... which of course most folks already understand as being such.

    Obama is on his second term regardless.

    April 29, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  23. rs

    Polls are accurate, scientific snapshots of opinion at THAT moment. No more, no less. This one might be an out layer or it might not. The thing not discussed in the poll article is "where are the Republicans"? If the public only throws in with the President to the tune of 41%, and MORE people trust Democrats over Republicans, what does that say? Unaddressed in this poll is what is the opinion of the GOP Congress? Last I heard it hovered at 12% or so.

    This is today, there are 6 months to the elections. How many Bundys are out there right now ready to impact the way the public thinks about the hyper-radical "new" Republican Party?

    Time will tell.

    April 29, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  24. Gunderson

    UM, Rudy,
    It ain't those Koch Brothers ads. It is the 29 Hour Work week, if you are lucky.

    April 29, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  25. Fair is Fair

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Keep trying to get us not to vote in the midterms Foxlite. We will turn out in droves. Believe that.
    -------–
    If anyone is swayed from voting by a CNN ticker article, they shouldn't be voting in the first place.

    April 29, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
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