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Obama hits new low in NBC News/WSJ poll spells trouble for Democrats in midterms

President Barack Obama's approval rating numbers according a new NBC News/WSJ poll are bad news for the Democrats in the November midterm elections, March 12, 2014
President Barack Obama's approval rating numbers according a new NBC News/WSJ poll are bad news for the Democrats in the November midterm elections, March 12, 2014
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama's midterm election year approval ratings are not boding well for Democrats; a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 finds the president with a new approval rating low of 41 percent and 54 percent disapproving his job performance. The new poll specifically looks at how the president's approval rating will affect the Democrats in the midterm elections making it difficult for them to hold on to control of the Senate. President Obama has now become a liability to Democrats.

The poll found that President Obama has reached in a new low in the poll with only a 41 percent approval rating and 54 percent disapproval. Obama is also only seeing a 41 percent approval rating in when asked separately about his economic or foreign policy. Obama is losing most of his support from Democrats, where 20 percent disapprove of his job performance. The president's favorable and unfavorable numbers look better with a smaller gap, at 41 percent to 44 percent.

The CNN Polls of Polls released also Wednesday, March 12 found that Obama's average approval rating is 44 percent with his disapproval rating at 52 percent. This shows that most of the recent polls have President Obama's approval rating hovering around in the low forties; with the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll posting a 41 percent approval rating, CNN/ORC International 43 percent and Gallup's daily for Wednesday at 43 percent, with a loss of 2 points and a disapproval of 52 percent, up one point from Tuesday, March 11, while Gallup's weekly for March 3 to 9 gives Obama a 43 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval rating.

There have been two exceptions, one higher than the rest and one far lower. Bloomberg's most recent poll also released on Wednesday, March 12 seems the most out of sync with the majority polls, giving Obama 48 percent approval rating. While a recent poll from the Republican leaning Fox News released on Wednesday, March 5 gave Obama his lowest approval rating, 10 percent less Bloomberg, down in the thirties at 38 percent with a 54 percent disapproval rating. The number was unprecedented even Fox News where as Politico pointed out "Obama had never previously registered a number below 40 percent."

Although quite close President Obama still has not reached the depths of approval rating lows that his predecessor George W. Bush did in 2006 prior to the midterms where his Republican Party lost both houses on Congress to the Democrats. In March 2006, Bush had a 36 percent approval rating. CNN Polling Director Keating stated that "Low approval numbers usually spell bad news for the president's party."

President Obama's approval rating numbers directly relate to the midterm elections, according to NBC News/WSJ Poll 33 percent of respondents stated that they will vote in "opposition" to the president in the election with only 24 percent saying they will vote in favor, with the most, 41 percent of respondents saying their vote will not be affected at all by Obama. What was worse was that 48 percent say they would not vote for a candidate that is a "solid supporter of the Obama administration," and only a mere 26 percent planning to vote for an Obama supporter. The negativity however, is mostly in districts with a Republican stronghold.

The Republican's advantage in the midterms was evident by the results when NBC News/WSJ asked with party should control Congress, with 44 percent of voters answering the GOP versus 43 percent for the Democrats. NBC News indicated that although the advantage is "slight" in the past "Republicans have traditionally fared well in elections when they've held a slight lead on this question." The states up for the Senate are solidly Republican, and a majority of which Obama lost in the last election; "Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia" making it possible for the GOP to gain control of the Senate.

The poll was released the next morning after the GOP had a victory in a special election in Florida where they held on to Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young's seat in 13th Congressional District after he died in October 2013. Republican David Jolly won with a small margin of 48.4% to 46.5% over Democrat Alex Sink. Even though Jolly was Young's former aide and Young represented the district for over 40 years, Sink was a candidate favored by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, much better known than her rival, still she lost in a district Obama won in both his presidential elections. The main argument in the campaign was overhauling Obamacare. Republicans are seeing this an indication of the GOP's possible success come the midterms in November, where the House of Representatives seems safe, but the Senate within reach to take over.

There is definite disapproval of Congress in general; a new Gallup Poll released on Monday, March 10 shows that that there is only a 15 percent approval rating for Congress, bad as it seems that is still slightly up from the all time low of 12 percent in February, but Congress has not seen an approval rating above 20 percent since 2011. According to Gallup "both parties could be vulnerable to anti-incumbent fervor."

The NBC News poll affirms that sentiment that nobody in Congress is safe for reelection whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, the poll determined a majority would not vote for the present representative and voters "wish they could replace every sitting member if given the chance."

The poll asked about some of the key issues with bipartisanship coming at number one with 86 percent of respondents, federal funding for local projects with 67 percent support, "cutting federal spending" a GOP issue is also supported by 67 percent of voters, while "raising the federal minimum wage" a Democratic issue being pushed by Obama gets 58 percent support.

The new Bloomberg poll affirms raising the minimum wage is popular with both Democrats and Republicans, at 69 percent with 45 percent of Republicans supporting a raise. However respondents oppose the Congressional Budget Office and GOP leadership argument that a minimum wage would lead to a loss of jobs with 57 percent finding it "unacceptable."

However, on the least popular issues according to the NBC News/WSJ poll are reducing Social Security and Medicare to be able to cut the deficit at 69 percent and foreign policy entanglements at 48 percent. Obama and the Tea Party are also on the least popular aspects of the midterms, Obama at 42 percent and the Tea Party at 43 percent. The Tea Party's reign might be over since their favorable rating is also low at 23 percent a 41 percent unfavorable rating.

The pollsters associated with the new NBC News poll believe the results show the Democrats are in trouble, with the Republicans in a good place. Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research who is the co-author of the poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff stated; "The wind is in our face. There is an advantage for Republicans right now."

McInturff now believes Obama is a hindrance to the campaign as opposed to being in the past an asset for Democrats, saying; "The president is being taken off the field as a Democratic positive. When you have the most powerful person in the world [on the sidelines], that's a big deal." However, Yang concludes; "What makes 2014 so different [from past cycles] is that the voters are in a rebellious state against the whole Congress and the establishment in Washington. Both parties are in jeopardy."


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. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.

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