April 29th, 2014
09:54 AM ET
8 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. Ken

    Vote out all those with 2 or more terms...clean slate is what is needed....

    April 29, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. amazed

    Poll numbers are nonsense. Democrats have evergreen electoral prospects due to their anti-poverty policies that create poverty instead of ameliorating it.

    April 29, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    Get Real
    DON'T WORRY DEMS, these polls are MEANINGLESS

    Polling against Obama? Yes, I agree. However that is not to say that Dem's should sit this particular election out as they did in 2010.

    Should they do so ... then, yeah. GOPerville wins big time.

    April 29, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. tom l


    Anyone who preaches this left right football battle like, "go dems" or "go rep", are fueling this divide by being uninformed. The ruling class is dividing us through demographics, we all have to see through this illusion of right and left because it really doesn't exist, and the reason that both parties are attacking the tea party because they don't choose coke vs Pepsi which makes them the most informed party since they make the government accountable and want less constrictions. Proof of this can be seen as the rep power grab as much as the dems, the truth is they are the same party and all they are doing is creating wrestling entertainment as they destroy this country and treat us like their cattle. They are the only ones that do what they say, although I might not agree with All their believes, I know they say what they mean and believe which is better then a lie stuffed rep or dem who are working for the same boss, multinational banks, special corporate interests, ect. You all know this but play to their beat. If we stop falling for this farce is the only way we will really progress and get out of their grasps, let's not divide ourselfs any further, red blue, black white brown, it really doesnt matter because we are all under attack by the same ruling class that is dividing us. Divide and demolish is the name of the game, don't fall for it, wake up for all our sakes.

    Very well said. I like to refer to them as "gangs".

    April 29, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. ST

    If I was a republican, I won't rejoice seeing this poll at all. As far as I know, Millennials were not polled at all. They are going to come in drove to vote come Nov. Each and everything is well arranged and under control that will motivate them. Just guess which Party they will support!

    April 29, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Dems in PA

    I bet its lower than the 41% you report and stop blaming just Obama.
    The American public understands the Democrats will stand there and lie thru their teeth to achieve their agenda, no matter what it costs or affects.

    April 29, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Tony

    @Yolanda, I have seen your messages before. Are they acceptable to the moderator too?

    April 29, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. dave

    This isn't good for the left.

    April 29, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. dave

    I disagree with a prior post. Currently there is nothing motivating the Millinnials and minorities to get out and vote. As the records show, without an extremely strong showing of these demographics them democrats would not have won the last election. Even with such a strong showing, the dems only picked back up a few seat in Congress, in an election after the largest single loss in seats either Party had seen in over 100 years, so they had a lot of potential for winning back seats.

    The way it look right now, Nov elections will be very bad for the democrat party.

    April 29, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    Obama's missteps on foreign policy (starting with his selection of Hillary Clinton as SOS) are to blame for much of the decline. Folks are tired of him drawing red lines with dry erase markers.

    April 29, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. jack2

    Obama is an embarrssment to the nation. He must leave at once for the good of the nation.

    April 29, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Tom l

    Why isn't the gang just as upset with Al Sharpton? He owes money. He's a tax evader. Where's your anger in him?

    April 29, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. Bob

    ST- millennials were the only group polled- ratings for other groups would have been lower

    April 29, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. john

    there can be plenty of reasons for this, but for me I think that white America is tired of him placing the race card all the time. he was supposed to make it different but anytime there is a problem it is the racist republicans keeping down the black man

    April 29, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Matt

    Oh the economy is not doing better so the average Joe feels it? Really? What a shock, yet the majority of this country elected Obama again so why is this a surprise?

    April 29, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. Name. willard

    No no excuse obama are nothing for 6 yrs also eurpoe will not trust to him right

    April 29, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Very well said. I like to refer to them as "gangs".
    Do you tom l?

    April 29, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. interesting

    you would never know it- with the media constantly covering for him, sugar coating everything he says and does. it's amazing how the media has become the propaganda arm for the left. Amazing- I thought this was america.

    April 29, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. Jessa

    Here's the thing, the President's #s may be low, but Republicans' numbers are lower. Americans aren't happy with the government in general. We're not happy that Congress can't get over their personal issues to pass legislation, we're not happy about being spied on and lied to (although I don't know why this shocked anyone), and we're not happy large corporations are in control.

    What I am personally happy about are the various opportunities to go to war that our diplomatic President passed on. Despite everything at least we aren't waging new wars in the Middle East.

    April 29, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. gerald

    Obama is the worst president in recent memory, he hasn't created any jobs, Washngton has done nothing but damage our economic recory chances, passed worthless legislation for the most part, caused massive swelling of our debt, is going to cause the Great Depression 2 in less than 5 years. We can;t pay our debt, they have passed so many regulations you can't even open a business in America anymore. We need entire Government over hauled and soon before its more than hopeless.

    April 29, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. amking1

    Rasmussen has him at 48% and Gallup at 44%. Polls that would be an avg. of 44%. Low but still better than Bush(36). I Don't trust polls anyway.

    April 29, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    People call Obama divisive. How has he in any way tried to divide americans? Here's an example of dividing Americans, how about from day 1 of Obamas presidency swearing to not pass any of his bills. How about constantly trying to dehumanize him, and call him a terrorist or a communist or a Muslim. How about creating a sub political party devoted to nothing but opposing the president. How about supporting anti-federalist ranchers who use women as human shields as they point guns at federal marshals. How about supporting a foreign enemy like Putin in order to undermine the administration. How about running political adds trying to convince people he was the anti-Christ or that he was not actually born in America.

    April 29, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. georgex9

    Standing up for the middle class and the poor is not an easy task when Congress members are in need of the large donations from the rich and corporations.

    April 29, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC


    Anyone who preaches this left right football battle like, "go dems" or "go rep", are fueling this divide by being uninformed. The ruling class is dividing us through demographics, we all have to see through this illusion of right and left because it really doesn't exist, and the reason that both parties are attacking the tea party because they don't choose coke vs Pepsi which makes them the most informed party since they make the government accountable and want less constrictions. ... ....
    You're delusional. I think most liberals, moderates and Democrats fully understand the plutocracy that elements in this country are trying to create. It is though same elements that fuel your "left – right' ideological battle. That battle is just a smoke screen for what you've identified is the real problem, the government coup by plutocrats.

    Anyone who pays attention can see the coup, and have seen if for years. The problem is that the very people who are fighting for the plutocrats are too lost in the smoke screen to actually see what is around them. They literally cannnot see the forest for the trees.

    April 29, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Kenman

    I remember polls a few months ago where he was in the high 30s, and I'm shocked that they can find one today that puts him even at 41%; I'd like to see the survey questions, and how they are asked!

    And, of course, it's disturbing that there are even 40% of uninformed Americans (if these polls are even limited to citizens) that stubbornly keep saying they support this disaster, or probably just supporting the "dreams" of what he was supposed to accomplish – the same reason the liberals in Finland gave him the Nobel Prize for what he "might accomplish"!

    And, though the leader of the Democrat Party is at an all time low, we're supposed to believe that people continue to support them over another party!?

    April 29, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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