Democratic support for Obama continues to erode
WASHINGTON & SANTA FE, NM (By Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico as edited by Hispanic News) September 15, 2011 ― In Democratic strongholds from Vermont to California ― not to mention New York City, where the president helped sink his party’s nominee in Tuesday’s special election ― Obama support is eroding with the consensus ― he’s moving unmistakably in the wrong direction.
Those aren’t the only deep blue places where dissatisfaction in the Democratic base on everything from health care to Afghanistan to the environment to deporting 1,000,000 Hispanics is eating away at what should be far healthier polling numbers.
Even Democratic bases like Connecticut or Maryland are starting to run away from re-electing Obama.
Pollsters point to the canary-in-the-coalmine factor: if Obama can’t hold these voters, they say, it’s a sign his wider support among the reliably Democratic electorate of liberals, labor, Hispanics, young people, Jews and other key blocs is withering. They won’t be there in large numbers to put him over the top again in borderline states, and they won’t be there to feed his campaign money and provide volunteer support at the levels they did in 2008.
Tuesday’s election in New York’s heavily Democratic Queens- and Brooklyn-based 9th District proved to be an extreme manifestation of Obama’s blue state problem: His approval rating was at 43 percent in a Sept. 9 Siena Research Institute poll and 31 percent in a Sept. 11 automated poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm. By contrast, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo posted a 75 percent approval rating in the district, according to the Siena poll.
“It is not per se a Democratic problem, it’s a problem with this president,” said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.
Siena’s been picking up on the trend for months, with its most recent New York statewide poll showing Democratic approval of the president down from 86 percent in April to 67 percent. Greenberg says that though the polling’s made clear that Obama’s never going to win back the Republicans who were with him on Election Day 2008 ― or at least supportive in the months after ― the real erosion has been within his own party.
“Where he’s lost his support in New York is among the Democrats,” Greenberg said. “That’s more startling than the overall.”
Across the country in California, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee for more than 20 years, the numbers reflect the same trend: Obama’s approval rating, at 61 percent a year ago, is down t0 50 percent, according to a Sept. 7 University of Southern California/L.A. Times poll.
And California’s Field Poll reported Wednesday that, for the first time since Obama took office, fewer than half of state voters approved of his overall performance. In March 2009, 65 percent approved of his job was doing as president and just 21 percent disapproved. By September 2011, just 46 percent approved while 44 percent disapproved.
Gauging the extent of the blue state blues is difficult ― many solidly Democratic states haven’t been surveyed recently. But in August, Quinnipiac University conducted a pair of polls in New York and New Jersey that showed the president dropping by double-digits since June, leaving him at a 45 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval rate in New York and a 44 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval across the river.
Given the overwhelmingly Democratic electorate in these states, Quinnipiac polling director Mickey Carroll said he thinks those numbers could serve as proxies for the feelings of core Obama voters far from the Hudson.
“When New York and New Jersey, where he ought to be doing much better, are this low,” Carroll said, “that spreads out: throw a rock in the water and the ripples go out ― it’s not good.”
The ripples have already hit both coasts, at least according to an automated SurveyUSA poll of Oregonians in August. Though the state is very down on Republican Rick Perry ― he has a 16-29 percent favorable-unfavorable ― they’re not especially thrilled with Obama. In a state where the president won with nearly 57 percent of the vote in 2008, he’s down to just a 41 percent favorable rating, with more voters ― 45 percent ― rating him unfavorably.
The phenomenon is present even in Vermont, every cycle among the first states called for the Democratic presidential nominee on election night. Voters there ― a place which delivered 67 percent of its vote to Obama in 2008 ― gave the president an approval rating of only 53 percent in a mid-August Public Policy Polling survey.
PPP’s Tom Jensen said he can already see base troubles putting the president on defense in several less reliably Democratic states that Obama won by double digits in 2008.
“If you have to fight to keep Wisconsin, you’re not going to be really playing in Georgia, Arizona and Indiana,” Jensen said, referring to three Republican-leaning states where Democrats have at times expressed optimism about Obama’s chances there.
Obama’s numbers have been ticking downward for months. Even before this summer’s toxic combination of the debt ceiling fight, the S&P ratings downgrade and growing impatience with the lack of progress on unemployment, his approval was above 50 percent in just 16 states, according to the aggregated daily tracking data Gallup released in August.
His best numbers, naturally, were in the bluest states. But he was suffering there too, including in his home state of Hawaii, where he was at 56 percent (compared to 71 percent n 2009), and Illinois, where now only 54 percent of the people who sent him to the Senate approve of the job he’s doing in the White House (compared to 65 percent in 2009). The only place he remains wildly popular is in his current hometown ― Washington, D.C. residents approved of him an average of 83 percent. Meanwhile, in Washington state, Obama just cracked 50 percent.
The diagnosis for the blue state blues: the economy, frustration with partisan gridlock inside the Beltway, a general anti-establishment feeling and other factors that are largely beyond the president’s control that are bringing everyone down. But for the base, there’s also the succession of heartbreaks, with the belief that Obama did not enough on health care, the stimulus, gay rights and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and anything at all on immigration reform and the rest of the liberal wish list Obama promised he’d get to in the Oval Office.
Whether split out by race, age or anything else, just about every cross-tab tells the same story: a good portion of those who danced in the streets on election night and stood for hours in the cold on the Mall for the inauguration have begun to wander away.
“They’re pulling back their enthusiasm ― you can see the Democratic base is just not that aroused,” said Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Field Poll that found Obama at historic lows in California this week.
Most of all ― and ominously for a president who’s hoping to hold off the coming Republican onslaught by firing up his base ― they just want to see him fight.
“They’re complaining that Obama is all rhetoric with no follow through, he’s not sticking to his guns, he’s just not winning any of the debates in Washington,” DiCamillo said. “That’s where the frustration comes from.”