The Year of Polling Terribly

Washington’s leaders have broken records in 2013, and not in a good way.

National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Nov. 19, 2013, 10:19 a.m.

This year, no one in Wash­ing­ton is do­ing a good job.

That’s ac­cord­ing to fa­vor­ab­il­ity polls, which in the last few months have stead­ily churned out re­cord low after re­cord low of the Amer­ic­an pub­lic’s con­fid­ence in its lead­ers.

An ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post sur­vey re­leased Tues­day found that 55 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans dis­ap­prove of the job Pres­id­ent Obama is do­ing, a ca­reer high since 2009. In a Quin­nipi­ac Un­vi­ersity poll last week, Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing sank to 39 per­cent, down from 45 per­cent at the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber. That rat­ing is the low­est in any na­tion­al Quin­nipi­ac poll for Obama since he entered the White House. And, for the first time in the group’s polling his­tory, 52 per­cent of voters don’t think that the pres­id­ent is hon­est and trust­worthy. The latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll put Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing even lower on Tues­day, at 38 per­cent.

Pew Re­search and NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al polls also re­cently re­gistered re­cord-low rat­ings for Obama. The former found that 65 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans dis­ap­prove of Obama’s hand­ling of the eco­nomy, and 59 per­cent are dis­sat­is­fied with his work on health care policy, both all-time lows in his pres­id­ency. The lat­ter at­trib­uted its re­cord-low ap­prov­al rat­ing, at 42 per­cent, in its own his­tory to “the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of set­backs since the sum­mer,” in­clud­ing far-reach­ing Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency sur­veil­lance, de­bate over a U.S. mil­it­ary strike in Syr­ia, the gov­ern­ment shut­down, and most re­cently the botched im­ple­ment­a­tion of the health care web­site.

Pres­id­en­tial rat­ings have been worse, however, and Obama’s re­cord-low rat­ings are spe­cif­ic to his time in of­fice. Harry Tru­man holds the title of low­est ap­prov­al rat­ing in Amer­ic­an his­tory, with 22 per­cent, re­gistered in 1952. More re­cently, George W. Bush dipped to 25 per­cent in 2008.

Con­gress, on the oth­er hand, is a dif­fer­ent story. Amer­ic­ans’ ap­prov­al of the way Con­gress is do­ing its job dropped to 9 per­cent last week, the low­est in Gal­lup’s 39-year his­tory of ask­ing the ques­tion. The gen­er­al pub­lic’s dis­like sees no party lines, with ap­prov­al rat­ings dis­mal across the board: 10 per­cent for Demo­crats, 9 per­cent for Re­pub­lic­ans, and 8 per­cent for in­de­pend­ents.

An Oc­to­ber Gal­lup Poll found the Re­pub­lic­an Party in gen­er­al is viewed fa­vor­ably by 28 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans, the low­est meas­ured for either party since the re­search com­pany began ask­ing the ques­tion in 1992. The Demo­crat­ic Party fared bet­ter with 43 per­cent, but that num­ber has been shrink­ing all year.

An­oth­er Oc­to­ber poll from Gal­lup found that just 18 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say they are sat­is­fied with the way the coun­try is be­ing gov­erned, down from Septem­ber’s 32 per­cent, re­cor­ded be­fore the gov­ern­ment shut­down. The num­ber is the low­est the polling agency has seen since it first star­ted ask­ing cit­izens the ques­tion in 1971.

Yet an­oth­er poll last month found that 33 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say the coun­try’s biggest prob­lem right now gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion, the highest such per­cent­age in Gal­lup’s his­tory. “Amer­ic­ans simply feel the gov­ern­ment’s not work­ing well at all,” says Frank New­port, Gal­lup’s ed­it­or-in-chief.

If trends hold, Wash­ing­ton is set to close out the year with some of the low­est ap­prov­al rat­ings in polling his­tory. The driv­ing force be­hind the dis­mal num­bers of 2013, says Car­roll Do­herty, as­so­ci­ate dir­ect­or at the Pew Re­search Cen­ter for the People and the Press, is likely a polit­ic­al “per­fect storm.”

“You have a dis­mal eco­nomy, you have par­tis­an grid­lock, and you have a pres­id­ent whose sig­na­ture ini­ti­at­ive is now get­ting a pretty prob­lem­at­ic rol­lout,” Do­herty says. People shouldn’t un­der­es­tim­ate the ef­fect of con­gres­sion­al grid­lock on Amer­ic­an per­cep­tion of the gov­ern­ment, he adds. “The pub­lic looks at this and just kind of col­lect­ively throws up their hands.”

It isn’t clear what this year’s neg­at­ive num­bers mean for con­gres­sion­al in­cum­bents in 2014. But they sug­gest that the pub­lic wants its elec­ted rep­res­ent­at­ives to think hard about their New Year’s res­ol­u­tions.

What We're Following See More »
McMullin Leads in New Utah Poll
38 minutes ago

Evan McMul­lin came out on top in a Emer­son Col­lege poll of Utah with 31% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second with 27%, while Hillary Clin­ton took third with 24%. Gary John­son re­ceived 5% of the vote in the sur­vey.

Quinnipiac Has Clinton Up by 7
39 minutes ago

A new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll finds Hillary Clin­ton lead­ing Donald Trump by seven percentage points, 47%-40%. Trump’s “lead among men and white voters all but” van­ished from the uni­versity’s early Oc­to­ber poll. A new PPRI/Brook­ings sur­vey shows a much bigger lead, with Clinton up 51%-36%. And an IBD/TIPP poll leans the other way, showing a vir­tu­al dead heat, with Trump tak­ing 41% of the vote to Clin­ton’s 40% in a four-way match­up.

Trump: I’ll Accept the Results “If I Win”
1 hours ago
Duterte Throws His Lot in with China
4 hours ago

During a state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "declared an end to his country’s strategic alignment with the United States and pledged cooperation with Beijing." Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he's "realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Hatch Considering 2018 Re-election Run
5 hours ago

Reports say that Orrin Hatch, who in 2012 declared that he would retire at the end of his term, is considering going back on that pledge to run for an eighth term. Hatch, who is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is unlikely to make any official declaration until after this election cycle is completed.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.