Sunday, March 15, 2009

Even People Who Talk to Pollsters Are Catching On...

Or at least they are according to Douglas Schoen, former pollster for President Clinton, and Scott Rasmussen, the president of Rasmussen Reports. As they write in the Wall Street Journal:

It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.
Chris Matthews once said that his job as a journalist was to do everything he could to make the Obama presidency a success. And with a few notable exceptions -- even Chris Matthews himself is beginning to catch on -- too many in the media are acting as if they agree with him.
Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001.
Of course, that was when Bush was also dealing with the most-heated period of the "stolen election" anger, remember? And the approval rating of the man who got elected on hope and change is now lower than what Bush's was at about the same point in his presidency? I can't think of a more telling poll result than that.
Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date.

Overall, Rasmussen Reports shows a 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president's performance. This is a substantial degree of polarization so early in the administration. Mr. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support, and the trend is decidedly negative.
The loss of the Independents will be what really cripples his administration. No one, Democrat or Republican, can govern America successfully without their support. And it becomes that much harder to make a case that opposition to Obama's policies is nothing more than reflexive Republican obstructionism, as seems to be the administration's newest tactic, now that even margarine-tongued spin-boy Robert Gibbs has admitted the relentless focus on Rush Limbaugh and other individuals has been "counterproductive."

President Obama needs to get the Independents back, and fast. And he won't achieve that by focusing on Rush Limbaugh or Rick Santelli or Jim Cramer and trying to make them out to be blowhards. We Independents already know these guys are blowhards. But we also know these blowhards happen to be making a lot of sense as well. Even worse, they happen to be making more sense than most of what we've been hearing from the Obama administration.

It's easy to mock the style of these guys, and I can understand how that would be the go-to position for the administration of a president who relies on style far more than, say, actual governing experience or even accurate math to get his policies and spending plans enacted. But style only goes so far. If Rush Limbaugh or even Jim Cramer were simply style and no substance, they would have faded into obscurity a long time ago. So go after them on the substance of their arguments, Obama administration, or just ignore them. Anything else, as even Robert Gibbs now seems to realize, will be "counterproductive."

Then again, so will trying to convince all us Independents who have serious reservations about President Obama's policies and programs that we're actually reflexively obstructionist Republicans. Either we'll have to accept the idea that President Obama knows what's in our hearts and souls better than we do ourselves, or we'll just have to shake our heads and think, "There he goes again..." Either way, it's another loser for this administration.

Gallup, by the way, has found similar results:
[A]lthough a narrow majority remains confident in Mr. Obama's goals and overall direction, 45% say they do not have confidence, a number that has been growing since the inauguration less than two months ago.
I remember James Carville once saying about polling data, "The trend is not our friend." For all our sakes, I hope he's telling that to President Obama right now.