Thursday, June 18, 2009


There are new polls out -- a New York Times/CBS poll and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll -- and they both show some public discontent with President Obama's policies, and slippage in his overall approval rating. What's odd is that this is happening even though the public is thoroughly disgusted with the party responsible for setting the terms of the debate on Obama. As the Times story notes:

While Republicans have steadily increased their criticism of Mr. Obama, particularly on the budget deficit, the poll found that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 28 percent of those polled, the lowest rating ever in a New York Times/CBS News poll. In contrast, 57 percent said that they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party.

The numbers in the NBC/WSJ poll (PDF) are no better:

(Click to enlarge this and all other charts.)

And yet whose message are Americans listening to as the begin to express dissatisfaction with Obama? Hooveresque Republicans rail about the deficit -- and suddenly, according to the NBC/WSJ poll, deficit concerns have increased dramatically (by 9 points since January):

Republicans say government is the problem -- and the percentage of people who say "Government should do more to solve national problems" has dropped seven points in three months, according the Times/CBS raw numbers:

And so on. Why is this happening? Why are Republican-averse Americans parroting Republicans?

I have a couple of theories. One is that Republicanism isn't as unpopular as it seems. From the rhetoric at the tea parties and from lurking at right-wing Web sites, I've picked up a strong sense that the hip response on the right to a question about the GOP is "I disapprove" -- but that disapproval is because the GOP is supposedly not wingnutty enough. So right-wing poll respondents are talking trash about the Republican Party while supporting its ideas -- and the numbers of those people aren't really shrinking (and they're influencing some people in the middle).

I'll add that I also believe a lot of people don't see Fox News and other parts of the Republican noise machine as Republican. (We had an electrician working for us a couple of months ago who praised Glenn Beck while insisting Beck is a "centrist" because he sometimes criticizes Republicans, too. Beck and others on the talk radio/Fox News right do deny party loyalty on a fairly regular basis.)

And beyond that, some Americans just seem to respond to practically anyone who's sure of himself Check out the numbers of Dick Cheney in the NBC/WSJ poll:

Still abysmal -- but his positive numbers are up 8 points in two months. And no one doubts he's a Republican.

But he knows what he believes, and we know what he believes. Obama and Obama's policies are still much more popular, but maybe he needs a bit more Cheneyesque righteous fervor and ideological purity. The corporatist semi-liberalism of Obama's economic approach is a lot of what's getting him into trouble, I think. He'd be better off if he seemed to be unabashedly on somebody's side, and let us know that unmistakably by his deeds and words. I'd hope it would be the average person's side, but as Bush and Reagan proved, you can be pretty damn popular champuining fat cats, just so long as you do it in no uncertain terms.

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