By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff
Searching for successes to counter the criticism that his accomplishments don’t match his accolades…see Nobel Peace Prize…President Obama is basking in the Senate Finance Committee’s vote on health care reform. The president called the action a critical milestone… And, why not? Obama’s plate has been overflowing since Day One with the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, and, of course, health care.
In the latest Marist Poll of voters nationwide, his approval rating is a decent, but not earth-shattering, 53%. As President Obama approaches the first anniversary of the day change ruled, it should be noted that an off-the-chart approval rating at this point in a presidency is no guarantee of future electoral success (the elder Bush) nor is lukewarm early numbers an indicator of future failure with voters (Clinton). In fact, President Obama’s numbers at present closely match President Reagan at this point in his tenure.
Despite President Obama’s attempts to portray himself as post-partisan, it’s the all-important Independent voters who have been re-examining their views of this new president. In Marist’s survey in August, 37% of Independents thought he could be doing a better job as president. That figure is now 47%. And, the chasm between Democratic and Republican voters nationwide remains wide, if not wider, than it has ever been. Certainly, within the halls of Congress, issues like health care reflect a membership torn along partisan lines. With the mid-term campaigns not too far off in the future, partisan rancor is only likely to intensify.
In the short run, President Obama shouldn’t heed critics who claim he is trying to do too much, too fast. He needs to put points on the scoreboard. In President Obama’s favor, he still enjoys some political cover from President Bush. The Marist Poll, for example, reveals that more than two-thirds of the national electorate, including a slim majority of Republicans, think he inherited the country’s economic woes. In President Obama’s disfavor, a growing number of voters now think the nation’s economic problems are the result of his own policies. Time is of the essence.
For presidential approval ratings over time visit the Roper Center Archives