NPR logo Obama Gets Low Marks On Economy, Oil Spill, Health Care


Obama Gets Low Marks On Economy, Oil Spill, Health Care

You don't have to be a White House political guru like David Axelrod to know that the latest public opinion polls spell trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats.

The latest results in some of the most respected polls are enough to give most White House political operatives the chills.

CBS News released a poll Tuesday evening, for instance, that put Obama's approval rating at 47 percent. That was identical to recent results in Gallup and the Pew Research Center polls. That kind of clustering makes those results seem pretty solid.

Given that the president got historic health care legislation passed and appears poised to get a financial regulation overhaul passed too, and that the macroeconomic data is signaling a recovery, one might expect the president's numbers to be better.

The results of the CBS News poll suggest that the president is being hurt by the perception that he hasn't managed either the economy or the BP oil spill well. And health care is an albatross around his neck, too.

Of his handling of the economy, only 43 percent approved compared with 48 percent who disapproved.

Meanwhile, only 35 percent of respondents in the CBS poll approved of the president's handling of the BP oil spill while 45 percent disapproved.

Turing to health care, check out these numbers: 42 percent approve of his handling of that issue versus 52 percent who disapprove.

Ask yourself: If you were the president, what would you do turn around these perceptions?

On both the economy and the oil spill, you probably would do everything you could to show they were your two top priorities.

The president has tried to show urgency on the economy by doing appearances around the country to promote his administration's initiatives. In California Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to tour a solar panel manufacturing plant where he will talk about the economy.

Unfortunately for the president, people's opinion of how the economy is doing is largely shaped by what they see and experience. So if you're sitting in a house with an underwater mortgage or have been unemployed for several months, or you find yourself underemployed, or know people in such straits, your view of the economy isn't likely to be too upbeat.

What looks especially worrisome for the president and congressional Democrats who are facing mid-term elections, is that health care, their signature issue which should be a positive, doesn't look like it will be.

The president has done a lot to try and sell the positives of health care but it clearly hasn't worked. One of the big problems for Democrats is that the big benefits from the health care overhaul, like coverage of the uninsured, are still years away from becoming effective.

On the gulf, the president is a hostage to BP's gusher like everyone else. The only thing that will help him there is for the flow of oil to be stopped and soon.

Still, the White House knows it has to appear to be acting even if it's totally dependent on BP to stop the oil. Which explains in part why the president will be heading to the gulf area later this week and on Thursday announcing a tougher regulatory regime for offshore oil and gas drilling.

The president is also helped by the fact that BP gets even lower ratings for how it's handling the oill spill than he does, with only 18 percent approving the way the company has gone about things. So the president won't lose much by bashing the company.

One of the most fascinating bits of the CBS News poll, is something that other polls have picked up, that the president gets relatively good marks on his handling of Afghanistan and terrorism. The area of national security, which had been traditionally a weakness for Democrats, is now a strength.

Obama's approval-disapproval on terrorism is 50 percent to 38 percent. On Afghanistan, it's 44 percent to 37 percent.

It's a topsy-turvy world when a Democratic president does better on his handling of national security than domestic issues.