Sliding in the Polls

A while back I mentioned to a liberal pal what I thought was fairly obvious:  that Barack Obama was a polarizing figure in American politics.  My liberal pal, a bright guy, didn’t know what I was talking about.  George W. Bush was polarizing, he said.  Rush Limbaugh was polarizing.  But Barrack Obama?

The mistake he made, of course, was to foolishly think that because he and every other liberal he knew loved Obama, everybody did, except, maybe, for a few right –wing nuts.  So a few days later I produced some numbers from Gallup indicating that while nearly 90 percent of Democrats were slobbering over Obama, only about 20 percent of Republicans could stand him. That, I said, is polarizing.  To his credit, he saw the light.

So next time around it’s a safe bet that Democrats will vote again for Obama and Republicans again won’t.  It’s the independents that really matter, the folks who vote Democratic sometimes and Republican other times.  Last time around they went for Obama, which helped put him in the White House. And now we get new numbers from Gallup on what independents are thinking, numbers that don’t look very good for the president.

Only 38 percent of independents approve of the job Barack Obama is doing.  One year ago, 56 percent approved.

According to Gallup, “Over the past year, Obama has lost support among all party groups, though the decline has been steeper among independents than among Republicans or Democrats. Today’s 38% approval rating among independents is 18 percentage points lower than the 56% found July 6-12, 2009. During the same period, his support has fallen nine points among Democrats (from 90% to 81%) and eight points among Republicans (from 20% to 12%).”

This sounds like 2012 could be a bad year for Mr. Obama, but we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.  Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had less than a majority backing them in July of their second year in office.  And both won re-election.  Or to put it another way:  2012 is a long way off.

But November 2010 is right around the corner.  And with declining poll numbers for the president, things are looking gloomier than ever for his fellow Democrats in the mid-term elections.

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  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, The only way to view the GOP political strategy, is that the Republicans are following a playbook that has evolved over more than four decades, to regain power by sabotaging Democratic presidents. The Republicans believe they can reclaim power by making the country as ungovernable as possible while a Democrat is in the White House, essentially holding governance hostage until they are restored to power. Then, the Democrats are expected to behave as a docile opposition “for the good of the country” (and usually do).

    • KrlyQ

      That almost sounds like it makes sense except for the fact that the Democrats have the majority and it has been one party rule for the past 18 months. The Republicans can’t “sabotage” anything because they haven’t had the votes to stop a damned thing! Complaints from Democrats because the Republicans won’t fall in line with their liberal thinking isn’t sabotage on the part of Republicans but the Dems attempt to justify the failure of Liberal policies by pandering to the least intelligent of the electorate who find fault in the very existence of Conservatives and the GOP.

  • paul

    If some think he is polarizing now just wait till 2012 if he is defeated it will not be because of the1/2 term senator from Chicago (not Illinois) inexperience running a government, business, or even a little league team
    Will be overlooked by the media who got him into office it will be all about race.

    • Stephen Shields

      It always has been.

    • Wil Burns

      But Paul, The Republican Plan: Cut Taxes For The Rich, Increase Defense Spending, SCREW everyone else. That’s it!

  • Ellie Velinska

    There is chaos and uncertainty everywhere you look in the country. On the top of it race-baiting seems to be the “strategy” for the midterm elections – extremely disappointing.

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    • Raj

      Thank you for such an iiletlngent, thought out, balanced peice. Oh how I would that your voice were loud enough to be heard above the clamor of fear and it’s resultant anger.

  • Bruce A.

    For those of us who are optimistic. At this time in 1994, approx. 4 months before the mid term election.
    What did the poll numbers say about Bill Clinton & Congress?

    • Ken Besig Israel

      Even if as is unlikely President Obama and the Democrats hold onto a slim majority in the House and Senate, his days as loafer in charge will be over. Barack Obama will be forced to go to the Congress and the Senate and jaw bone his programs through. He may finally mature into a real leader after he experiences real defeat for perhaps the first time in his life and he may have to learn the skills it takes to gain the support of real Congressmen and Senators who oppose him.
      Of course given Obama’s personal history of intellectual arrogance and taking affront at the slightest provocation, he may just be unable to change and end up not functioning as President at all.
      Given the domestic problems facing America, unemployment, the deficit, the borders, health care, as well as the foreign policy problems like th rogue states North Korea-Iran-Venezuela nexus plus-Islamic terrorism, the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, and the European monetary collapse, all of us should hope and pray that Obama can fulfill his responsibilities as the President of the United States and the only real leader of the Free World even after he and his Democrat Party lose their majorities.
      More Barack Obama petulance and blame Bush are the last things any of us need.

      • Bruce A

        I am afraid the our president is not up to the job.

        • CCNV

          If we removed all the mirrors from the White House, maybe Obama would be able to function.

          • Bruce A.

            Leave the mirrors, our President will do less damage that way.

  • MerchantofVenom

    According to a Fox News poll they found that six percent of the independents are “extremely happy” with the Obama administration, a third (33 percent) are “satisfied, but not extremely happy.” Some 40 percent of these critical voting blocs are “disappointed, but not angry” and 21 percent are “angry” with the White House.

    If this Frank Luntz poll is accurate it looks like potentially he could loose 61% of the Independent vote. Great for me. Not so good for him. On another somber note I guess it would be safe to say the Messiah won’t be carrying AZ or LA in the 2012 election.

  • EddieD_Boston

    The difference b/w Obama and Clinton is Clinton was reasonable (and smart) enough to work with the Republican Congress to accomplish a centrist agenda. That’s why we had a balanced budget Wil. Obama is a complete left-wing loon and he doesn’t have it in him to move to the center. It’ll be his demise.

  • Stephen Shields

    As a citizen of Illinois, I hate to say, “I told you so.” But, I told you so.

    • CCNV

      I grew up in SE Iowa, where we constantly heard about all the corruption that happened in and around Chicago. Back then, it was pretty scary to think people actually did those things. Today, hearing it coming out of our Nation’s capital, and being ‘in your face about it’, is even more scary! Hope enough people grab their ears and pull their heads out come November. We’ll do our part out here to send Reid back to Searchlight.

      On an up note: New signs around town: “Anyone BUTT Reid”!

      • Stephen Shields

        CCNV: It’s ludicrous. Take a look at and read about all the corruption that has flooded down to Springfield from Chicago.

  • Buz Chertok

    Sueing Arizona for creating a law directing its law enforcement officials to follow federal law; Trying to have criminal trials for terrorists in NYC thereby inviting attacks there; Stuffing unpopular laws and programs down our throats; Lying incessantly; Groveling to our enemies; Insulting our allies; Hiring and harboring avowed communists, anarchists and radicals to work in his administration; Failure to prosecute clearly guilty criminals acting on his behalf and many more stupidly insulting actions make Obama absolutely polarizing. It is causing a rift between those people whose eyes,ears and minds are open despite the outrageously biased media that covers for him by purposely failing to report his foibles and those who ignore his dangerous nonsense out of ignorance or blind adoration. Fortunately awareness seems to be growing and with that will come the political demise of the absolute worst president that this country has ever seen–BAR NONE.

  • Dan in Phx

    Being a scientist, I don’t consider “polarizing” necessarily a bad thing. When people are polarized, there’s room for meaningful discussion, disagreement, debate – and on a very rare good day, resolution. However, it becomes troubling when you consider what people are polarized about. I believe the country will be better off when we’re only polarized about ideas and principles, not about people and parties.

    When a prism polarizes light, it doesn’t result in orange looking down on green, violet disrespecting yellow or more to the political point, red disliking blue, or vice versa.

    Modern politics is destructive: divide and conquer. Forcing a loss on the “other guy” is just as acceptable as earning a win by having the best ideas. In fact, it’s easier. But it doesn’t stop on election day because all of (modern) governing is campaigning too. Campaigning never stops, so the dividing never ends. Pols seek an edge 24/7 for themselves, their party, their contributors, their constituents, and then the country. That’s a long list and in the wrong order.

    So what’s the solution? Eliminate political parties? Naw, that’ll never work. Political parties aren’t inherently bad. When we eliminate (by Amendment, of course) the inequities of majority rule in Congress, the parties can return their focus where it should be and prove it themselves. Only then can the best ideas win, not the most skilled panderers. Then people’s polarization will be revealing, without destroying.

    – “The Next 10 Amendments”

    • Stephen Shields

      I always thought both Democrats and Republicans should be equally represented in the House and the Senate. It would call for restructuring of districts and either eliminate or add a few positions. It would, however, eliminate the partisan bickering that President Obama has spoken out against and then in the same breath initiated and instigated. Another idea I’ve always enjoyed was Bernies theory (forgive me if it wasn’t your’s Bernie) that Senators should be elected from one state and represent another. This would eliminate Pork Projects and would actually force the individual to work. It would also force them to earn reelection and might deter them from running over and over again (i.e. Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond).

      • Dan in Phx

        I missed that proposal (whose ever it was originally). It’s certainly out of the box. Everyone would have to find out what the state-candidate match ups were about a week before election day. Just enough time for voters to read about the candidates, but not enough to buy too many votes with pork. 😉

        However, after the election as a “thank you” is still pork waiting to happen. Someone would have to solve the problem of influence peddling before “vote by one, represent another” would eliminate pork projects — they would just trade them like they trade votes and amendments, appointments and just about everything else. That would be worth solving for many reasons besides pork. I don’t have a direct solution for the influence peddling problem.

        But even still, my Amendments bring stronger accountability between the governed and the governing, not disconnected. I’m sticking to that principle. :-)

        – “The Next 10 Amendments”

        • Stephen Shields

          I say it should be a lottery AFTER the election.

    • Fred Pasek

      When you say “I believe the country will be better off when we’re only polarized about ideas and principles, not about people and parties.” you imply that this division is about people and parties, but as a Tea Party member, I think much of it stems from ideology, particularly about how far to the right or left the socialism scale should be tilted. Clearly, those who benefit from a redistributive for of government will favor that form over one that tends to leave them fending for themselves to a greater degree.

      I believe the fiscal conservatives oppose the current administration because they believe the socialism scale is sliding too far to the left, and those who favor that form of government approve of this administration. The reason we saw approval ratings in the mid 20’s under President Bush was because he slid the socialsm scale to the left with his TARP bailout and drug program, not to mention his spending. That united the fiscal conservatives with the fiscal liberals for one election, but that was an anomoly, not something we’ll see again.

      I believe the system actually works fine the way it is, except for the excess spending on PACs and political campaigns. Polarizing is inevitable because we have a diverse society which holds different views as to how a government should function and to what extent it should be allowed to exert its powers.


  • Jim Seeber

    If the 2010 mid-term elections weaken the Dimocrats’ hold on Congress, Obama will become even more polarizing. One of the drawbacks to giving away goodies to constituents is that they come to expect these treats to always be there (something Obama’s banking on to win acceptance of his health care campaign; as people become accustomed to receiving perceived benefits, they don’t react well to having such benefits withdrawn). Without a staggering majority to rubber-stamp his programs, he’ll be unable to sustain the flow. Given his record of not reacting gracefully to being opposed by anyone on any issue for any reason, we can expect him to really blow a gasket if his reserve supply of congressional lemmings is depleted—and he faces tough opposition for the first time.

    • Ken Besig Israel

      I really hope you are wrong and Obama gets the message that he cannot be President of only the Leftist part of the United States and that his policies and politics must take into account needs and opinions of the other 3/4 of Americans too.
      Whether Obama, the Democrats, the Hispanics, the Blacks, or even the Gays like it or not, Obama must find the will, the maturity, and the strength to be the Presidential representative of all Americans.

  • Ken Besig Israel

    Given the fact that barring incapacitating illness or death, Barack Obama will remain President of the United States for the next 2 and 1/2 years. Even with his inexperience immaturity, and almost total ignorance about almost everything, this American President will still wield considerable power. The loss of Democrat majorities in the House and Senate could just force Barry to grow up, study a bit more, and consult with real experts and advisors, not the usual political and Left wing loons he is accustomed to.
    Since he will no longer be able to simply toss his problems to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to solve or screw up even worse, Barry will have to play a lot less golf, go to a lot fewer rock concerts, and make a lot fewer long winded hot air speeches. Barry will now have to go hat in hand to the Senate and the Congress and use his powers of persuasion to try to get his policies enacted, and to keep in place those he has already achieved.
    Barry may also have to reevaluate his isolationist approach to foreign affairs, not just his personal and ideological hostility to Israel, but his cold and aloof approach to Britain, France, and most of the Free World. He may even be forced to confront the North Korean-Iranian-Islamic terrorist nuclear nexus with force and not just platitudes.
    In short, losing the Democrat majorities in the House and the Senate could just force Barry Obama to behave like a determined and forceful grown up man in an important leadership post, one who is aware of his limitations and one who knows who to consult and advise and when.
    Barry needs to learn that leadership requires initiative and ambition, not just doing the opposite of his predecessor.