Thursday, December 16, 2010


The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is supposed to be good news for Barack Obama, but I'm not sure about that:

... he's far from out -- especially when it comes to his prospects for re-election in 2012.

That's the conclusion from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which finds that the president's job approval rating has once again hit its lowest level; that more people believe the nation is on the wrong track than at any point in Obama’s presidency; and that just a third of Americans think the economy will rebound next year.

Yet the survey also shows Obama comfortably leading prominent Republicans like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups for 2012.

And it finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans personally like the president, even if they don't agree with his policies.

..."From my point of view, this poll is anything but a lump of coal in the president's Christmas stocking," said Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff....

But what I'm seeing in the results (PDF) is a tire with a slow leak -- it's no blowout, even though people have looked for moments that would be the end of the Obama
(the BP oil spill was supposed to be that, as you recall, and now Representative Peter DeFazio is asserting that the tax deal "is potentially the end of his possibility of being reelected"). Obama is just losing support gradually -- and I'm not sure why that would turn around if the economy doesn't.

I'm focusing on various attributes the pollsters asked about, which respondents were asked to rank 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Here are some of the declines in 5 rankings this year:

Being easygoing and likable: down 11 points since January.
Being an inspirational and exciting president: down 9 since January.
Having strong leadership qualities: down 8 since January.
Being honest and straightforward: down 6 since January.
Having the ability to handle a crisis: down 7 since January.
Being a good commander-in-chief: down 6 since January.
Being firm and decisive in his decision-making: down 10 since January.
Achieving his goals: down 6 since January.
Uniting the country: down 6 since January.

That's not good -- the number of people who think he's acing every one of these is down significantly.

I'm also not impressed by this: a generic match-up, with respondents asked to choose between voting to re-elect Obama or his Republican opponent, Obama leads by three points, 42 percent to 39 percent, with an additional 10 percent saying it depends who the GOP opponent is.

So he has a 3-point lead over Generic Republican. Problem is, the full results tell us that, in October 2002, George W. Bush had a 14-point lead over Generic Democrat -- and he won two years later by only 3 points (and he didn't exactly face the strongest possible candidate). We're often told that the low poll standings of Reagan in '82 and Clinton in '94 show that Obama can bounce back; that's true, but Bush's relatively high poll standing in '02 show that a presidency with one big unhealed wound (Iraq for Bush, the economy for Obama) can just become less and less robust.

So, no, I don't think this is a terrific poll for Obama. The numbers are OK, but the trends aren't good.

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