04/02/2014 05:07 pm ET Updated Apr 02, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: Obama's Foreign Policy Rating A Weak Point


Another national poll confirms that foreign policy remains a perceived weak spot for President Obama. Chris Christie's approval rating stabilizes in New Jersey. And a new poll question suggests that voters may not be in a mood to throw all the bums out after all. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

OBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY RATING SLIPS - Quinnipiac: "American voters give President Barack Obama a negative 39 - 55 percent grade for his handling of foreign policy, one of his lowest foreign policy grades ever, as his overall job approval inches up to a negative 42 - 50 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. A total of 80 percent of American voters are 'very concerned' or 'somewhat concerned' that the Ukraine situation could lead to a larger regional conflict with U.S. military involvement. But voters give mixed signals on President Obama's handling of the Ukraine issue. They give Obama a negative 41 - 47 percent grade for his handling of the Ukraine and Russia situation; 5 percent say his handling of Ukraine and Russia has been 'about right,' while 36 percent say 'not tough enough' and 6 percent say 'too tough.'...Reversing a slight shift to the Republican column, 40 percent of American voters now say they would vote for a Democrat for Congress this year, while 38 percent go Republican. Independent voters would vote Republican 35 - 27 percent. Democrats in Congress continue to be viewed as the lesser of two evils, with a negative 30 - 60 percent approval rating, compared to a negative 18 - 73 percent score for Republicans." [Quinnipiac]

HOW MANY WILL REALLY THROW THE BUMS OUT? - Mark Mellman (D) revisits the perennial disconnect between polls showing large numbers of Americans saying they're ready to vote against all incumbents and the vast majority of those incumbents getting reelected: "In a recent survey we undertook for the Bipartisan Policy Center with our colleagues at North Star Opinion Research (who aren’t responsible for anything they disagree with here), we posed a different question and got very different answers. A typical anti-incumbent question asks 'Are you inclined to reelect your representative or are you inclined to look around for someone else to vote for?' Needless to say, looking and casting a ballot are two different things. Another question offers one side of the equation: 'Would you like to see your representative in Congress re-elected in the next election?' Both these questions show record high anti-incumbent sentiment, fueling the 'throw the bums out' storyline. By contrast, we gave voters two choices. Just 19 percent said 'I am so upset with Congress that in the next election I am going to vote against my member of Congress whether I like and agree with him or not.' In other words, just one in five expressed a pure anti-incumbent sentiment. Three-quarters said they would do what we expect voters to do: 'Whatever I think about Congress as a whole, in the next election I’m going to evaluate the candidates who are running and vote for whoever is better, whether or not they are already a member of Congress.'" [The Hill ]

KAY HAGAN VULNERABLE AGAINST ALL CHALLENGERS - SurveyUSA: "The problem for [North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay] Hagan is, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for Time Warner Cable News North Carolina, no matter which of 5 Republicans she goes up against, she's in trouble…SurveyUSA finds that incumbent Democrat Hagan does not defeat any Republican challenger...There are some pollster semantics involved here, since Hagan trails by as few as 1 and no more than 4 points, which means that the Republican advantage may or may not be statistically significant. So we must be cautious not to say that in every case Hagan 'trails.' However, in no case does Hagan lead." [SurveyUSA]

CHRISTIE APPROVAL STABILIZES IN NJ - Monmouth: "Public opinion of Chris Christie has stabilized after suffering a significant drop when the Bridgegate scandal broke in early January. The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll found the governor’s job approval rating hovering just above 50% – similar to his standing in February which had fallen by double digits since his re-election last year. While a recent report contends that Gov. Christie had no involvement in the toll lane closures, the internal inquiry does not seem to be the cause behind his steadying job ratings. In fact, most New Jerseyans say the investigation was conducted mainly to improve Christie’s reputation and they actually disagree with many of the report’s findings." [Monmouth]

WHY WERE AP/GFK AND ABC/POST POLLS SO DIFFERENT ON ACA? - AP Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta: "Polls often diverge by a few points, but it's rare to see well-respected polls come to opposing conclusions about the public's take on an issue. In the last week, however, an Associated Press-GfK poll found support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul at a new low while a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed it had hit a new high….The AP-GfK poll asks those taking the poll whether they 'support, oppose or neither support nor oppose' the law, while the Washington Post-ABC News poll asks if they 'support or oppose' it. The inclusion or absence of that neutral category is critical, as poll takers respond to the question they're asked rather than offering opinions unprompted. AP-GfK polling has found significant shares of Americans choose that middle option. In surveys such as the Washington Post-ABC News one, in which a middle category isn't explicitly offered, less than 10 percent typically say that they're unsure about the law….The difference between the two polls lies in that neutral group, which tends to be more Democratic than the overall public." [AP]

AMERICANS GETTING TIRED OF DRUG WAR - Saki Knafo: "The drug war has cost the U.S. government about a trillion dollars over the last four decades, while leading to the imprisonment of millions of people for nonviolent drug offenses, helping make America’s incarceration rate the highest in the world. But public policy is slowly shifting toward a less punitive approach to people who use illegal drugs, and a new survey suggests most Americans approve. Just a quarter of Americans think the government should focus more on prosecuting users of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday. By contrast, 67 percent of those surveyed said the government should focus on providing treatment to drug users. Americans also seem to back the efforts of states around the country to lighten penalties for drug possession and low-level dealing. Nearly two out of every three respondents said it was a “good thing” that some states have reduced mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders in recent years. [HuffPost, Pew]

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

-Seven in ten U.S. adults track a health indicator such as weight, diet, exercise routine or symptom for themselves or a loved one. [Pew Internet]

-David Wasserman says rich suburbs won't save the Democrats this November. [538]

-Eric McGhee says the midterm penalty against the party of the president will hurt the Democrats in the House in campaign 2014. [Monkey Cage]

-Polls show support for caps on campaign spending. [NYT]

-Americans aren't sure if Edward Snowden did the right thing, but are glad the leaked information is now public. [HuffPost]

-An online Harris poll finds that 47 percent of Americans think differently about their behavior on the Internet since revelations of NSA surveillance programs. [The Hill]

-A Landmark/Rosetta Stone (R) poll for WSB-TV finds Jason Carter within striking distance of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R). [GApundit]

-Scott Clement offers five reasons why Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans prefer George W. Bush as commander in chief to Barack Obama. [WashPost]

-Erik Wemple critiques the L.A. Times' reporting of a non-random sample web survey of fast-food workers. [WashPost via @LoganDobson]

-The Washington Post maps D.C's mayoral election results. [WashPost]

-The DCCC is building a computer model to predict voters' marital status and target unmarried women. [WashPost]

-Americans favor energy conservation over production. [Gallup]