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. rs

    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".
    You failed to mention your Right-wing "Gang" affiliation Tom, shame on you.

    April 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Jim

    I am surprised that it is not much lower than the 41 to 43 % low rating. In mine and most American minds, he is a non effective President that is afraid to show any balls in standing what our kids and grandchildren have & will fight for. That being our assurance of the American way of life, freedom and democracy. I voted for him the first time, however, not the second. I believe he has helped in putting the middle class into the lowest of the middle class and under the guise of blaming the Republican party. How sad it is to see our standing in quality of life and also depreciated according to all surveys.

    April 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. cuisinemanager

    These numbers are skewed by the liberal media saying anything to help this president, lying by omission. In reality Obama ratings are much lower than what is reflected in these poll numbers. Obama truly believes his policies are helping the country but the economy, unemployment and wage situation proves otherwise. After more than 5 years you cannot deny the reality of this presidency. It simply does not take almost 5.5 years for things to improve. You can't continue to blame others, that no longer flies. The policies that this president is enacting have damaged the country and set the democratic party back decades!

    April 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Jim

    To Mav:

    My question to you would be, how would history be judged years down the road have helped any of us here at the present.

    April 29, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Republiker

    Folks, as long as the Democrat Freeloader Party gets out the vote by freebies and dead people voting, the Republican's don't stand a chance.

    April 29, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. rs

    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?
    Wow, you like your new line.
    Let's see, first, no guns, no anti-government rhetoric, no posse comitatus nonsense, or threats of violence for starters.
    Second, maybe the key difference here is that people like you and the Right keeps trying to make out like Bundy's problems are just tax ones (like a lot of rich folks have). He probably is a tax cheat too, but his problem with the BLM is not paying grazing fees- fees for service using OUR federal land, not on income.

    Sloppy, Tom, sloppy.

    April 29, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. sean mccoy

    will Obama break the all time record

    April 29, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  8. Silver Lining

    It was not too long ago that if you did not like Obama's policies, you were considered racist. Does this mean that according to the NBC/Washington Post and Gallup polls that 69% and 67%, respectfully, Americans are racists?

    April 29, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. jan

    Why would he have a good approval rating? He hasn't done anything to earn a good approval rating. He has his own agenda instead of an agenda that represents the American people. He doesn't focus on the big picture. I've never been more embarrassed to be an American citizen. Our country is heading down the wrong road and we will soon be a third world country. I will agree that he is not the worst that we have had, but not the best by a long shot.

    April 29, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. TSRVT

    We decent people are sick to death of you right-wing trash tearing this good man down. And we all know exatly why you are doing it.

    April 29, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. Josh

    Brace yourself:

    Excuses and Bush-Blamers are coming.

    April 29, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Guest

    Because he is a bold faced LIAR.

    April 29, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. grace

    Obama is a magnificent and brilliant leader and anyone who doesnt like him lying to us is obviously racist.

    April 29, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. jasmine

    The 41% that are for him are not working and living off of working people in this country. Anyone who does not see it this way really needs to open their eyes to everything that has been going down or not going down within.

    April 29, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    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?
    Wow, you like your new line.
    Let's see, first, no guns, no anti-government rhetoric, no posse comitatus nonsense, or threats of violence for starters.
    Second, maybe the key difference here is that people like you and the Right keeps trying to make out like Bundy's problems are just tax ones (like a lot of rich folks have). He probably is a tax cheat too, but his problem with the BLM is not paying grazing fees- fees for service using OUR federal land, not on income.

    Sloppy, Tom, sloppy.
    Sloppy but efficient. You don't need much in the way of rigorous facts and comparisons when you have an army of conspiracy theorists ready to jump on any anti-progressive band wagon.

    April 29, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. dr3yec

    @ TSRVT This was a liberal poll, it wasn't the right at all . Maybe next time you could read the article before commenting .

    April 29, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. Steve

    Government, not just Dem or GOP, is stuck on STUPIDITY. You know who you are! (WELL MAYBE YOU DON'T). A country led by idiots.

    April 29, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Peter Gerdeman

    I continue to support this president, who as defeated two of the Republicans best candidates – with each spending $2B. Most of the bad press comes from loud mouth, racist, evangelical Republicans – who need to be less anarchists, and more of doing their jobs. No immigration bill, no jobs bill, continued infringement of voters' rights, restriction of women's rights, reduction of taxes for the wealthy and big companies, absolution of those on Wall Street contributing to collapse in 2008; war without end, Amen. Yet what do we read everyday? Another Republican caught in adultery, caught in corruption, caught fondling children. Yeah – like this is what America wants – NOT!

    April 29, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "illusion of right and left "

    Aaaaaaah, the false equivalence rears its head. Predictable. We have the fourth estate to thank for that. Good on ya, CNN. Keep up the good work promoting the delusion that the only way to be "unbiased, fair and balanced" is to forcibly pretend that both sides are equal, that all policy proposals are equal, that there are no facts and can never be any facts that point at one answer versus another (and when they do exist they must be whitewashed), etc. It's doing a great job of ruining the country.

    April 29, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. dr3yec

    These young kids trying to get into the workforce cant stand Obama anymore, he is a huge failure to their eyes .

    April 29, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "They know that his real allegience lies with the Muslim Brotherhood,"

    Let's all take a moment to thank the GOP/Teatrolls for this kind of filth. Thanks guys. No really. We sooo appreciate you generating, promoting, promulgating and encouraging that kind of toxic idiocy. /golfclap

    April 29, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  22. liberal disease

    STILL TOO HIGH, it is much much lower than 41, just ask anyboyd

    April 29, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. sly

    I'll take President Obama over any President since Ike.

    Best in 50 years.

    April 29, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. sally

    The economy has steadily improved since the meltdown under the Republicans. If the recovery is not fast enough to suit everybody, they should point the finger at the Republicans who have done everything they can to keep this country divided and paralyzed. Despite this, we are a heck of a lot better off than we were.

    April 29, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  25. rs

    Hey Tom I, just catching up on your posts in another entry, re: the Right's embrace of anti-Americanism.

    So, question: Would you say Mr. Bundy is a patriot given that he doesn't believe in the federal government or it's authority over him (and actually his beliefs are wackier than that even)?
    Would you further say that an ideology represented by a certain political party would be "pro-American" or patriotic" if it supported such an individual and promoted his cause?

    April 29, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
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