POLITICS

HUFFPOLLSTER: President Obama's Approval Decline Continues

09/26/2013 06:04 pm ET | Updated Sep 27, 2013
AP

Barack Obama's job approval rating continues to decline. Americans like the sound of the Keystone pipeline, but not "fracking." And we're shocked, shocked shocked that people are more familiar with "Obamacare" than "the Affordable Care Act." This is HuffPollster for Thursday, September 26, 2013.

OBAMA'S APPROVAL: HOW ABRUPT A DECLINE? - Several national polls released over the last few days have confirmed a continuing decline in President Barack Obama's approval rating in recent months. As often occurs with one-poll-at-a-time coverage, the stories (or headlines) can sometimes exaggerate the change. For example, a online CBS news story reports: "President Obama's job approval rating is just 43 percent now, down slightly from [46 percent] earlier this month and the lowest since March 2012. Forty-nine percent disapprove, the highest it has been in two years." The headline of the story on CBS.com: "Poll: Obama approval drops to 43%." The headline of the same story, cross-posted to the Fox News website: "Obama Approval Tanks in NYT-CBS poll." [CBS.com, Fox News]

Obama's approval has been declining, though steadily - The Pollster chart, which combines all public surveys into a single estimate of the polling trend, helps put these recent results into context. President Obama’s approval rating has been falling throughout 2013, from a high of 51.3 percent in late December 2012 to 43.2 percent as of this writing -- a level that now nearly matches his previous low of 42.9 percent just after the debt ceiling debacle of August 2011. As the chart makes clear, however, the decline during the last nine months has been steady, just under one percentage point a month, and not marked by abrupt shifts or drops. [Pollster]

What's behind it? - Much of the decline represents a reversal of the bump in approval Obama experienced during the "honeymoon" of his inauguration. Some may have approached the approval question differently during the fall 2012 campaign, rating Obama in comparison to Romney. Although the net negative perceptions of Obama's performance are "across the board," as the New York Times reports, extending to "foreign policy, including Syria and Iran; the economy; health care; and the federal budget deficit," the 2013 decline has been steeper on foreign policy. A closer look at the Pollster charts shows a far steeper decline since January on his foreign policy rating (-10 points, from 48 to 38 percent since January) than on his performance ratings on the economy (-5, from 44 to 39 percent) and health care (-4, from 43 to 39 percent). These results imply a greater drag on Obama's ratings from perceptions of his handling of Syria, Libya and perhaps the NSA surveillance program. [NYTimes; Pollster Obama approval charts for foreign policy, economy, health care]

Down on everything - The patterns run largely parallel to the trend on whether Americans believe things area headed mostly in the right direct or are off on the wrong track. The right track response, like Obama's approval rating, jumped (from 30 to 40 percent) in the second half of 2012 and has fallen back (to roughly 26 percent) as of this writing. However, it fell even lower (just below 20 percent) just after the 2011 debt ceiling mess, suggesting that continuing DC chaos on this issue might cause a further slide on Obama's ratings. [Pollster right direction/wrong track chart]

CONTINUING SUPPORT FOR KEYSTONE, GROWING DISAPPROVAL OF FRACKING - Pew: “Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in Barack Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%). Opinions on these two hotly debated issues underscore the complexity of public attitudes on U.S. energy policy. Support for increasing energy production from some traditional sources remains strong: 58% favor increased offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters. Yet over the past year, opposition to the drilling process known as fracking has increased, as has opposition to nuclear power. Just 38% favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, the highest level of opposition since the question was first asked in 2005….Since March, opposition to increased fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 44% now favor increased use of fracking while 49% are opposed. In March, support exceeded opposition by 10 points (48% to 38%).” [Pew]

WORDING EXPERIMENT: 'OBAMACARE' VS. AFFORDABLE CARE ACT - Steve Liesman: "What's in a name? When it comes to the debate over health care, apparently a lot. In CNBC's third-quarter All-America Economic Survey, we asked half of the 812 poll respondents if they support Obamacare and the other half if they support the Affordable Care Act. First thing: 30 percent of the public don't know what ACA is, vs. only 12 percent when we asked about Obamacare...Now for the difference: 29 percent of the public supports Obamacare compared with 22 percent who support ACA. Forty-six percent oppose Obamacare and 37 percent oppose ACA. So putting Obama in the name raises the positives and the negatives. Gender and partisanship are responsible for the differences. Men, independents and Republicans are more negative on Obamacare than ACA. Young people, Democrats, nonwhites and women are more positive on Obamacare." [CNBC]

THURSDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Bill McInturff (R) warns Republicans not to read disapproval of Obamacare as support for defunding it. [WaPost]

-Ryan Lizza plots the geography of the GOP "suicide caucus." [New Yorker]

-Aaron Blake explains why polls matter, even when they ask about things people don't understand. [WaPost]

-Trust in federal government employees falls to an all-time low. [GWU Hatchet]

-Marc Levy tries to make sense of wildly conflicting partisan polls on the special election to fill Ed Markey's seat in Massachusetts. [Cambridge Day]

-Kaiser releases its first wave of polling on uninsured Californians. [KFF]

-Another California survey finds mixed support for prison plan, majority support for legalizing marijuana. [PPIC]

-Brent Benson's maps show a "remarkable neighborhood effect" in results for the Boson mayoral primary. [MassNumbers via @skoczela]

-Twitter's "real gold mine" may be its data. [Digiday via @Dellavolpe]

-Twitter can infer more about its users by tapping academic research. [Technology Review via @AlexLundry]

-"Man Who Understands 8% Of Obamacare Vigorously Defends It From Man Who Understands 5%." [The Onion]

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