8/12: National Leaders Strike Out with Voters as Mids Approach

Fueled by his lowest approval rating in handling foreign policy and numbers that are barely higher for his handling of the economy, President Obama’s overall approval rating remains upside down with only four in ten registered voters nationally giving him a positive score.  Although his job performance continues to be viewed positively by Democrats and negatively by Republicans, his approval from independent voters has declined from a previous poll conducted in April.  President Obama’s favorability rating, overall, has also declined from that poll, and is now under water.

President Barack Obama


But, Americans could be uttering Casey Stengel’s baseball refrain, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”  Ratings for both the Republicans and Democrats in Congress are even substantially below those of President Obama.  The GOP matches its lowest score, and the Democrats are pretty much stuck at the low approval rating they’ve had for some time.

Although the GOP is now favored over the Democrats in the so-called “generic ballot” test owing to independent voters, this reversal of fortune from the April survey does not automatically convert into a “wave” election for the Republicans.  Fewer than three in ten voters indicate that their impression of President Obama, despite his low numbers, will be a major factor in deciding their vote for Congress this November.

In fact, these poll numbers point to the failings of both political parties to address public concerns.  The proportion of voters who now consider themselves to be independent represents nearly half of the electorate and is at an all-time high.

The bottom line: this gloomy national view all adds up to, by greater than two to one, Americans thinking the country is headed down the wrong track.

“With neither political party having an upper hand with voters, expect a scramble for votes as the mid-term elections approach,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “Don’t expect candidates to echo Johnny Mercer’s 1940’s lyrics, ‘Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.’”

Complete August 12, 2014 USA McClatchy-Marist Poll

Poll Points

  • President Obama is at his lowest point with voters for his handling of foreign policy.  Only 33% of registered voters nationally rate the job President Obama is doing in this area positively.  61% disapprove, giving him his highest negative score to date (Trend).
  • With respect to two of the major hot spots internationally, Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas, less than one-third of the nation’s voters approve of the president’s handling of these crises.  Only 30% believe the president is performing well with regard to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  Similarly, just 32% score the president well when it comes to his policy with Ukraine.
  • President Obama does not score much more confidence from voters when it comes to the economy.  39% rate the job he is doing positively, and 58% rate him negatively (Trend).
  • Overall, 40% of registered voters approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.  The president’s support among independent voters has waned since last spring (Trend).
  • President Obama’s favorability rating has declined from 49% in April to 43% currently and is upside down (Trend).
  • Congress fares even less well.  The congressional Republicans are back to their lowest approval rating with 22% (Trend)Democrats remain unpopular and are still at 32% (Trend).

Party Politics

The Republicans edge the Democrats by five points, 43% to 38%, on the national generic ballot for the mid-term congressional elections.  This is a reversal from April when the Democrats topped the GOP, 48% to 42%.  Democrats’ support among independents has eroded since last spring, going from 43% to 26% now.  Interestingly, the GOP has not been the beneficiary of the Democrats’ loss of support from independents.  They have remained at 40% in both polls.  The proportion of independents who are undecided or not backing either party has doubled since April (Trend).

  • When considering their impression of President Obama, voters are more likely to back Republicans, 42%, than to support Democrats, 32%.
  • But, how much do voters’ impressions of President Obama count toward their vote in November?  52% say President Obama is not a factor at all in deciding their vote, including 61% of independents, 49% of Democrats, and even 40% of Republicans.  Another 17% of registered voters view Obama as a minor factor in their decision.  29% of voters see the president as a major factor when making their choice this fall.  42% of Republicans, 28% of Democrats, and 22% of independents share this view.
  • Talk of impeachment is a turnoff for voters.  69% do not think Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the president.  91% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and even 48% of Republicans have this view.
  • Discussion of impeachment tips the scales in favor of the Democrats.  Voters are more inclined to vote Democratic, 43%, than to back Republicans, 38%, in November.
  • Similarly, suing President Obama is viewed unfavorably by 58% of voters, including 87% of Democrats and 55% of independents.  A majority of Republicans, 57%, want to go forward with this action, and 34% do not.
  • Suing the president also moves the electorate towards voting for the Democrats, 42% to 37%, over the Republicans in November.
  • Party politics in Washington has chased voters from both parties.  45% of voters, a record high, describe themselves as independent and not aligned with either party.

Wrong Course 

64% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and only 28% describe it as on the right track.  This is the lowest optimism measure since the fall of 2011 and is appreciably lower than it was during the fall of 2010 (Trend).

Marist Poll Methodology
Nature of the Sample and Complete Tables