News / USA

    Obama's Weak Poll Numbers Worry Democrats

    Obama's Weak Poll Numbers Worry Democratsi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    Jim Malone
    May 07, 2014 9:33 PM
    President Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings dip in some recent public opinion polls, which has Democrats worried as they prepare for November’s congressional midterm elections. From Washington, VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more on what is behind the falling poll numbers.
    U.S. President Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings dip in some recent public opinion polls and that has Democrats worried as they prepare for November’s congressional midterm elections.

    A recent Washington Post/ABC News survey found the president’s approval rating at a record low of 41 percent.

    And the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 38 percent approved of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy - also a low mark for his presidency.

    There are plenty of reasons for the dip in public confidence.

    Two-term presidents often experience a slip in poll ratings in their sixth year, just in time for the congressional midterm elections. And that usually spells trouble for the party controlling the White House, according to George Washington University expert John Sides.

    “For better or for worse, the president is the party’s leader and as he sinks or swims, so goes the party,” Sides said. “The Democrats would be in a much better position if Obama were having kind of an increase in his second term approval that would match something like Bill Clinton’s.”

    A number of Democrats in tough re-election fights in November are already putting some distance between themselves and the president, especially some Senate Democrats in Republican-leaning states like Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina.

    “I think they are probably going to try to distinguish themselves somewhat from the president’s agenda and hopefully thereby blunt any impact that his unpopularity might have in those places,” Sides said.  “Democrats who represent Republican-leaning states and districts don’t have a lot of reason to mention the president, to have him campaign for them, to mention his record.”

    Foreign policy at issue

    Republicans will focus much of their campaign this year to voter worries about the economy and the troubled rollout of the president’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

    But recent polls also show a decline in public approval of the president’s handling of foreign policy.  In the recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, only 37 percent of those surveyed approved of the way President Obama is handling Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

    Republicans have been quick to criticize the administration on Ukraine including Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

    “And so I’m disappointed in the administration’s tepid response that we’ve seen and I think it’s time to issue the tougher economic sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy,” Ayotte said.

    Democratic pollster and strategist Celinda Lake acknowledges that the events in Ukraine are having an impact in the polls.

    “There are a lot of Americans who like a more muscular foreign policy, particularly when you are facing the Soviet Union or former Soviet Union, particularly when you are facing a bully like Putin,” she said.

    The recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also found that Americans appear to be more reluctant than ever to engage overseas, especially if there is a risk of military involvement.

    The survey found 47 percent agreed with the notion that the U.S. should be less active in world affairs, a figure that is higher for similar surveys conducted back to the mid 1990’s.

    But after lengthy military involvements in both Afghanistan and Iraq, pollster Lake said Americans are sending a clear message to policy makers from both political parties that it’s time to refocus on problems at home.

    “Americans are just so tired of being involved abroad,” she said. “There is just real fatigue about it.”

    President Obama defended his foreign policy during his recent trip to Asia.

    He said that critics always seem to want him to take tougher action, including options that might involve military force.

    “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? “ President Obama told a news conference in the Philippines recently. “If we took all the actions that our critics have demanded, we’d lose count of the number of military conflicts that America would be engaged in.”

    Preparing for November

    The president made light of his poll situation during his remarks at the recent White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington.
     
    President Barack Obama laughs as actor and comedian Joel McHale speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, May 3, 2014, in Washington.President Barack Obama laughs as actor and comedian Joel McHale speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, May 3, 2014, in Washington.
    x
    President Barack Obama laughs as actor and comedian Joel McHale speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, May 3, 2014, in Washington.
    President Barack Obama laughs as actor and comedian Joel McHale speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, May 3, 2014, in Washington.
    “Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don’t really want me campaigning with them,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s true though I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day and she invited Bill Clinton.”

    Pollster Celinda Lake said Democrats are much more aware of their political predicament this year than they were in 2010 when Republicans clobbered them at the polls on Election Day and retook control of the House of Representatives.  She said Democrats are hyper-focused this year on turning out their core supporters who like to vote in presidential election years but not so much in midterm congressional cycles.
     
    This group includes what she called the “Rising American Electorate” of younger people, unmarried women and minority voters.

    Some analysts believe signs of an improving economy could help the Democrats blunt the Republican advantage this year.

    “Perhaps because it is spring we are seeing a tiny bit of optimism that we haven’t seen since before 2008.  [There have been] hints of it in a number of polls in the last two or three weeks and that could certainly advantage the Democrats if in fact it continues,” said public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute.

    But Lake said that even as the Obama administration tries to convince voters that the economy is improving, many at the lower income levels are not feeling it.

    “Voters are very distrustful about the economy,” she said. “American voters, particularly blue-collar voters, do not feel that this economy is in recovery.  Many of the Democratic Party’s base constituencies are ones that have had the hardest time—young people, unmarried people, people of color.

    “So it’s a tough election cycle and you are going to see a lot of incumbents be surprised and you are going to see turnout matter a lot and it’s going to be tough for Democrats, there is no question about it,” Lake said.

    So while some Democrats keep their distance from President Obama in their re-election efforts, many will eagerly welcome campaign help from former President Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is expected to decide whether to run for president sometime after the midterm elections.

    And helping Democratic candidates in 2014 could pay dividends down the line if Hillary Clinton decides to make another bid for the White House two years from now.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora