A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 gives President Barack Obama the lowest marks of presidency on foreign policy and the handling of the Benghazi Affair. The presidency also keeps getting low approval ratings for his handling of key domestic policy issues including the economy, health care, and immigration reform. Obama gets a bit of good news with support for his troop withdrawal from Afghanistan plan, and his new proposal to curb carbon emissions from power plants. In general the president's approval rating has rebounded a bit, but Democrats are not going see anything beneficial in the midterm elections, where the Republicans are polling at an advantage.
In the last two weeks President Obama has decided to refocus his attention on foreign policy, he delivered a major address outlining his plans for the remainder on his term last week on Wednesday, May 28 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point commencement. If Obama thought he would press the reset button with the address it did not help. According to the ABC News/Washington Post poll only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, while 50 percent disapprove; 2-1 strongly disapproves; his lowest approval numbers ever. In the last ABC News poll released in March it was at 47 percent approval, while at the time of the president reelection in November 2012 it was at 54 percent.
The president's performance dealing with a number of foreign policy issues in the last couple of months is not forgotten, especially his handling of the Ukraine crisis, Russia annexation of Crimea and continued hostility in Eastern Ukraine and the region, handling the ongoing civil war in Syria, the inability to reach a bilateral agreement on Afghanistan's continued security, China's new dominance in Asia, and the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
President Obama's handling of the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 and the yet unanswered questions that surround the attack is facing disapproval. According to the poll 58 percent of Americans believe there was an administration cover-up, still only 51 percent want there to be a further inquiry with new Congressional hearings as the GOP has commenced. It is also not boding to well for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a potential and almost inevitable run for the Democratic presidential nomination considering the fact that 50 percent disapprove of the way she dealt with the attacks while helming the State Department.
Suspicion of a cover-up over the Benghazi attacks is not the only scandal Obama is dealing with, the cover-up of long waiting lists for veterans' health care by the Veterans Affairs Administration is the last issue that Obama has to contend with. The scandal implicated a local VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona the long waiting times were masked, and resulted in at least 40 deaths of Veterans who needed essential health care, but could not get it. According to the poll 97 percent of Americans find the issue "serious" with 82 percent finding it "very serious." While 65 percent approve of the fact that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned on Friday, May 30 after the official report determined that the local VA hospital did alter their records. Still the scandal has not tarnished the president that much with 60 percent saying he should bare "limited blame," 38 percent "assign" more responsibility and only 19 percent completely blame him.
There is only one bright spot in Obama foreign policy; it is the new plan he unveiled last week on Tuesday, May 27 to withdraw the remaining troops in Afghanistan. In general Obama has 45 percent support for his policy regarding the War in Afghanistan and 45 percent disapproval. Americans however, overwhelmingly approve of the president's plan to withdraw the majority of troops still in Afghanistan to 9,800 at the end of 2014, before withdrawing the remainder in 2016. When asked about the president's plan 77 percent approve and even 57 percent say they strongly support.
President Obama's decision to turn his attention of climate change and environmental policy is getting good marks already, but the same cannot be said for the rest of Obama's domestic policy, President Obama is not reaping much success or kudos for his five month economic and domestic policy push in the form of his economic opportunity program. The poll finds that presently Obama has only 43 percent of Americans approving of his economic policy with 53 percent disapproving. This may have do with the fact the series f economic measures Obama presented; raising the minimum wage, pay equity, and extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless all failed in Congress with raising the minimum wage and pay equity failing even to advance in the Senate to a full vote.
Two months after hailing his health care law, the Affordable Care Act a success because it had over eight million American signed-up for health insurance on the federal Marketplace over a million more than the projected seven months, Americans still have not forgotten the disastrous rollout in October 2013. According to the poll, 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the law's "implementation" with only 39 percent approving.
Although, the president has halted his review of the nation's deportation policy, giving Congress and the Republicans in the House of Representatives time to pass immigration reform this summer, his handling of immigration is increasingly viewed negatively. Only 38 percent approve of handling of immigration issues with 50 percent disapproving. Most Americans especially those most affected by the president's implementation of the laws are blaming Obama more than the GOP House; they wanted Obama to use his executive powers to halt the deportations, they believe he could have done for more immigration reform through executive actions, and did not have to wait as Congress lingered.
The president is looking to cover all policy bases in the next couple of months before the midterm election campaign hits full swing in an attempt to help bolster the Democrats. Presidents in their second term always find their party loses seats in the midterm elections, Obama has been to trying to avoid this trend, by pursuing his year of economic actions, of using his pen and his phone to ensure essential legislation is enacted. The president has signed over 20 executive orders or memorandums on economic and educational initiative, but these initiatives have failed to pass a broad level in Congress.
Now Obama is focusing on foreign policy, with the new outline, Afghanistan withdrawal, and recent trip to Asia and this week Europe. Despite his efforts overall American are not that impressed the president's efforts with him receiving only 46 percent approval rating and 51 percent disapproving. Still that is an improvement over his all time ABC News/ Washington poll low of 41 percent, but not enough of a bump to help the Democrats.
The Democrats are receiving bad news from the new poll, with chances lowering that they will maintain control over the Senate in addition to the fact that most Senate races are being held in GOP strongholds. They have slight lead over Republicans, individually for Democratic candidates 47 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. The numbers flip in the Republicans favor 48 percent to 46 percent among voters who are intending to vote. This year it is all out war between Republicans and Democrats for control if the Senate. The Democrats have been trying to portray the GOP as against the middle-class and pro-wealthy and corporate America.
The battle is especially fierce in the Senate where they have been forcing legislation that does not have bipartisan support or even those with the support, but preventing adding amendments that always sweeten the deal. Meanwhile, Republicans are blocking legislation with bipartisan support just in protest to the Senate Democratic leadership's dictatorial practices. These attitudes have prevented any legislation from passing recently including a bipartisan energy bill and the business tax cuts extenders bill that has been renewed since 1981.
The Republicans are seeing other edges in the midterm elections race; they have the support of male voters with a nine point advantage, and white voters by a 16 point advantage. Democrats have women voters by a 10 point advantage, including white women; while non-whites support the Democrats with 67 percent versus only 23 percent for the GOP. The recent fall of the Tea Party in the Republican primaries is going to be extremely beneficial for the GOP come election time, with moderate candidates The Democrats lose a plan of attack on the GOP as being extremist in their views and policies.
Ultimately however, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll Obama's popularity is vital and is going to affect voters the most come midterm election day. The poll finds that 81 percent of voters that approve of the president find they support their local candidate; the opposite is true for those that disapprove with 74 percent supporting the Republican candidate instead. ABC News concluded that "Come Election Day, though, a central factor is likely to be Obama himself…. As goes the president's popularity, then, so, to a large degree, go his party's fortunes."
- ABC News / Washington Post Poll, June 3, 2014
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.