Polls: Obama Approval Slides Amidst Scandals

Posted: May 23, 2013 10:20 AM

Earlier in the week, the lefty meme was that despite the cloud of scandal hanging over the White House, President Obama's approval ratings were unaffected.  Not any more.  Fox News' new poll of registered voters contains all sorts of unpleasant news for the West Wing:

- The president's job approval rating has dipped underwater at 45/51, an eight-point negative swing since last month.  He's at 40/52 among independents.

- Attorney General Eric Holder's job approval has plummeted to 28/40 with approximately a third of voters not knowing enough to answer.  This may fuel whispers that Holder may be on his way out.

- Obama's trustworthiness quotient is now split evenly, down from positive territory in the months leading up to the election.

- A whopping 68 percent of Americans believe the federal government is "out of control" and threatening basic liberties.  Republicans ought to concentrate on articulating an agenda that speaks to that widespread disaffection. 

- More Americans label Obama a "lame duck" president than say he's still effective.

The poll asks a few questions about the scandals themselves, which yielded results not too dissimilar from the WaPo and CNN findings we've highlighted this week.  In short, people are concerned, think the stories are legitimate, and want to know more.  Fox just released a second tranche of data, which also features some interesting nuggets.  On gay marriage, a clear majority (41/52) opposes amending the Constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman, down from (58/34) in favor ten years ago.  And as much as the trio of current scandals may be weighing down Obama's numbers, there's another big wet blanket draped over his presidency:

22. Do you think it would be better to leave the new health care law in place, or would it bebetter to go back to the health care system that was in place in 2009?

Better to keep law: 34 percent
Better to go back to previous system: 56 percent

Fox's 34 percent support level is nearly identical to Kaiser's figure we reported in April.  In the new poll, Obamacare is upside down by double digits on this question among men, women, voters of every age group, Republicans and independents.  Only Democrats and non-whites say they prefer the new law to the previous system.  By a two-to-one margin, Americans say their families will be worse off under the "Affordable Care Act" than prior to its passage.  So much for the president's assurances that the law's roll-out is already over for 90 percent of Americans, who should already be "enjoying" its benefits.  Obamacare is toxic, and it's likely to get worse as the logistical "train wreck" of implementation plays out, premiums continue to rise, costs explode, and the tainted IRS kicks off enforcement of the hyper-unpopular mandate tax.  It could be that the health law is hurting the president just as much as any of the scandals.  John Nolte notes that the president's job approval has sunk below the 50 percent mark in four new surveys, including this one.  I'll leave you with one of Philip Klein's five reasons why Obama's scandals aren't prone to backfire on Republicans like Bill Clinton's impeachment saga did:

Clinton’s scandal involved sex - Without re-litigating the entire impeachment debate, it’s fair to say that Clinton’s scandal revolved around his sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. This made it a lot easier for Clinton to appeal to Americans’ sense of forgiveness and portray political opponents as prying into his personal life as opposed to dealing with the nation’s problems. In contrast, though both sides debate Obama’s culpability, the issues at the heart of the current scandals are all very serious — dealing with a terrorist attack on a U.S. ambassador, IRS targeting ideological groups of a certain stripe and the Department of Justice spying on journalists. According to a CNN poll released Sunday, “Americans appear to be taking all three controversies very seriously, with 55% saying the IRS and Benghazi matters are very important to the nation and 53% saying the same thing about the AP case.” So, it’s harder to put Republicans on the defensive for investigating these issues than it was to attack the 1998 GOP for expending so much effort investigating Clinton for lying about oral sex.

Click through for the other four.  I wonder how the public's opinion on Benghazi might be impacted by this story, which we mentioned on Tuesday but hasn't quite broken through yet -- particularly in light of this data point from the administration.

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