Obama's Support From Pa. Independents Erodes

Voters at a rally for Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden in Media, Pa. i i

In 2008, voters rally for then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden in Media, Pa. The town is the seat of largely Republican Delaware County, but the district voted for Obama last year. Gerald Herbert/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Gerald Herbert/AP
Voters at a rally for Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden in Media, Pa.

In 2008, voters rally for then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden in Media, Pa. The town is the seat of largely Republican Delaware County, but the district voted for Obama last year.

Gerald Herbert/AP

President Obama received 52 percent of his votes from independents, according to exit polls last November, a margin that was crucial to his victory. And now, as the president's job approval ratings decline, it's no coincidence that so, too, has his support from independents.

Dana Sigovich, a clerk in a dress shop in Media, Pa., is among those who voted for Obama in November. A year later, she's disappointed in the president.

Sigovich's town and other Philadelphia suburbs make up a key swing area, with high numbers of independents. Media is the seat of largely Republican Delaware County, but its congressman, Democrat Joe Sestak, defeated a Republican three years ago, and the district voted for Obama last year.

But Sigovich says Obama hasn't made good on his promise of change. "There hasn't been a lot of change in the country that has been obvious to me, at least," she says.

Sigovich, who is 19 and without health insurance, says she's disappointed Obama hasn't yet been able to push through a health care overhaul.

Polls say she's not alone in her dissatisfaction. One released by Franklin and Marshall College last week shows just 40 percent of voters in Pennsylvania believe the president is doing a good or excellent job, versus 59 percent who grade his performance as fair or poor. Among independents, his approval rating is even lower.

That's a 7 percentage point drop from the summer, according to Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall, who attributes it "in substantial part due to the decline [among] independent voters."

Madonna says the fall can be traced to two causes: the recession and the debate over health care.

"It is not coincidental both nationally and in Pennsylvania that the president's job performance began to drop as we engaged in this great national debate, particularly in August and September, over the nature of the health care reform that's currently under way in Congress."

Andrew Arata, the owner of Earth and State craft shop in Media i i

Andrew Arata, the owner of Earth and State craft shop in Media, seen in 2008, says he is an independent who voted for Obama last year. He says he has no regrets. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Matt Rourke/AP
Andrew Arata, the owner of Earth and State craft shop in Media

Andrew Arata, the owner of Earth and State craft shop in Media, seen in 2008, says he is an independent who voted for Obama last year. He says he has no regrets.

Matt Rourke/AP

Andrew Arata, the owner of the Earth and State pottery and craft shop in Media, is another independent who voted for Obama last year. He says he has no regrets.

"Considering a year ago from now, I think the general zeitgeist felt like we were going down the toilet. We were in a downward spiral," he says. "I think at least now we feel like we've stabilized a little bit. People feel a little more positive about what's going on."

Resistance To Change

While some independents believe the president isn't moving fast enough to suit them, others believe the opposite.

John Niemkiewicz, a retired engineer, says he voted for Arizona Sen. John McCain in the last election. He says Obama is taking on too much.

"I think he's going entirely too fast, too soon," he says. "This country has a tremendous inertia, and it really doesn't take much to change. You just have to tweak it one way or the other; you don't have to make mass changes. A lot of people don't like change. "

That attitude was reflected in last summer's "tea party" and town hall protests. It may also be reflected in other poll numbers, which show more than 40 percent of voters identifying themselves as independent, a historic high. How those voters trend a year from now is likely to determine if Democrats retain their majorities in the House and Senate in the 2010 midterm elections.

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