Washington Extra – Slipping poll numbers

August 24, 2010

It’s more bad news for President Barack Obama with the release of our latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll today. The headline number is that, for the first time since he took office, more Americans now disapprove of his performance than approve. After a long period where his approval rating was stable at just over 50 percent, the last three months have seen a steady deterioration, matching the economy’s faltering performance.
Just like Ronald Reagan in 1982, Obama’s mid-term poll ratings are suffering from the economy’s woes. Faith in Obama’s ability to tackle the crisis was a key factor that swung the presidential race his way in 2008, but his performance on the economy is fast becoming his Achilles heel in the face of a concerted Republican assault. As Ipsos pollster Cliff Young told us, many voters had long been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but now patience has “basically vanished.”

Last month’s Reuters/Ipsos poll found Obama’s approval rating for his economic leadership was lower — and was deteriorating faster — than on any other issue.  This month’s poll gives some more clues as to why this is the case. Unemployment and government spending topped voters’ economic concerns, with 72 percent and 67 percent of respondents saying they were very worried over those issues respectively.

Republicans have been trying to convince voters that last year’s deficit-financed economic stimulus was not effective in reducing unemployment and ending the recession, and this argument may be striking home.

Nor are voters that keen on the administration’s plans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the highest earners. Some 49 percent said they would prefer tax rates to be maintained for everyone, while 46 percent said they favored letting the tax cuts expire for some or all Americans. Not surprisingly, it seems like Americans want the deficit tackled through lower spending rather than through higher taxes.

There is also a widespread feeling Washington no longer works. Although Republicans get more of the blame for this, that feeling would be dangerous for the Democrats if they are perceived by voters as the party of big spending and big government.

To read Richard Cowan’s full story on the poll findings, click here.

For a Factbox on the comparison between Obama’s ratings now and Reagan’s in 1982, click here.

For Ipsos pollster Cliff Young’s full interview with Reuters Insider television, click here.

Here are our other top stories today…

US home sales at multiyear lows, stoke recovery fears

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes took a record plunge in July to their slowest pace in 15 years, underlining the housing market‘s struggle to find its footing without government aid.

For the full story by Lucia Mutikani, click here.

For Obama re-election hope, economy is still key

Forget about President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms and crackdown on Wall Street. American voters care most about their own wallets and elections are always about the economy. If he can deliver a solid recovery that makes Americans feel financially more secure, Obama may well win a second term, said analysts who use economic data to forecast election outcomes.

For more by Alister Bull, click here.

Top Republican urges Obama to oust economic team

The top Republican in the House of Representatives called for President Barack Obama to fire his economic team, in a campaign-style speech meant to focus voters on the weak American economy. House Republican leader John Boehner said Obama should begin clearing house by replacing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro, click here.

Fed’s Evans says a double-dip risk has risen

The risks of a double-dip U.S. recession have risen in the last six months, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans said. While a new contraction in the economy is still not the most likely scenario, high unemployment and a fractured housing sector make this recovery a fragile one, he said.

For more by David Dawson, click here.

Small firms may get break in SEC proxy rule-source

U.S. securities regulators are considering giving small companies a reprieve from plans to make corporate boards more accountable to shareholders, a person familiar with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s thinking said. The SEC is hashing out a rule to give long-term shareholders the ability to place a board nominee on the company’s proxy statement.

To read the full story by Rachelle Younglai, click here.

From elsewhere…

Not all wines get better with age

You probably know, or think you know, that fine wine gets better with age. But how do you know that? It is probably not by tasting a large number of fine wines of various vintages. Instead, you’re just taking it on trust, often from the kind of wine snobs who will sniff and swirl and spit a wine, but now swallow it, and declare with all the puffed-up authority they can muster that it will be “drinking well from 2017 through 2027.”

To read more of this story, click here.

Americans choose racket over remote control

Tennis has moved out of the country club and turned into one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States as Americans looking for a cheap pastime in a bad economy have hit the courts.

To read more of this story, click here.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing (Obama meets with the Weithman family in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 18, 2010); REUTERS/Brian S nyder  (A sign in Massachusetts welcomes  Obama and his family for their vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard)

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