Bloomberg National Poll: Americans Disapproving Obama Policies Poised to
Enable Republican Gains
Almost Two-Thirds Say Nation Headed in Wrong Direction, Even More Sour
Assessment than in March
Among Most Likely Voters, Republicans Favored over Democrats 48% to 40%
President Obama Remains More Popular Than Any of the Republican Figures Tested
in Poll; Topped Only by Secretary of State Clinton and General Petraeus
NEW YORK -- July 15, 2010
Americans disapprove of U.S. President Barack Obama’s handling of almost every
major issue and are deeply pessimistic about the nation’s direction, offering
a bullish environment for Republicans in the November congressional elections,
a Bloomberg National Poll shows.
A majority or plurality disapproves of Obama’s management of the economy,
health care, the budget deficit, the overhaul of financial market regulations
and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Bloomberg National
Poll conducted July 9-12. In addition, almost 6 in 10 respondents (58%) say
the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause.
Almost two-thirds (63%) say they feel the nation is headed in the wrong
direction, an even more sour assessment than in March when 58 percent felt
that way. Two-thirds of independent voters (68%) are pessimistic, while just
56 percent of Democrats offer a vote of confidence.
“They don’t see any solutions in sight,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of
Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide
survey. “They have been hammered by the economy and there is a disconnect
between the lives Americans are living and Washington. They seem to have lost
Poll respondents are divided on their congressional preference between
Democrats and Republicans, with both sides getting 43 percent support. Among
those who say they are most likely to vote, Republicans are favored, 48
percent to 40 percent. The Republican advantage is even greater among likely
voters who view the election as exceptionally important, with Republicans
beating Democrats 56 percent to 34 percent.
The story is on Bloomberg.com at:
Control of Congress
For the Democrats, who control Congress and the White House, the survey shows
the potential for losses in November, when voters will fill all 435 House
seats, 36 Senate seats and 37 governorships. The outcome could affect Obama’s
ability to move his agenda through Congress for the two years leading up to
his own 2012 re-election bid.
The fate of incumbents will depend to some extent on what happens to the
economy in the next four months and whether unemployment drops much from its
current 9.5 percent. A rising stock market could help as well. So far this
year, the S&P 500 stock index has declined 1.8 percent.
The public’s disenchantment with the president’s policies doesn’t extend to
voter feelings about Obama himself, as he gets a job approval rating of 52
percent and personally is viewed favorably by 55 percent. Obama, 48, remains
more popular than any of the Republican figures tested in the poll and is
topped only by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus,
the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, among a list of 15 people and
political parties reviewed.
The only bright spot for Republican candidates is for Louisiana Governor Bobby
Jindal, who gets a 32 percent favorable rating and an 18 percent unfavorable
grade. Better-known party leaders such as former vice presidential candidate
Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both have negative ratings
that outweigh the positive views.
Although turnout in midterm elections is historically lower than in
presidential races, the electorate is interested. Four- fifths of Americans
(82%) who plan to vote say November’s election is very or exceptionally
The likelihood to vote is strongest among older voters, Republicans and those
with the highest incomes. Among those 55 and older, three-quarters say they
will definitely vote, compared with 48 percent of those younger than 35.
Four-fifths of Republicans say they will definitely vote, compared with 65
percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents.
Referendum on Obama
Seeking to capitalize on the intensity expressed by voters, Republicans want
to make the election a national referendum on Obama and the party in power,
while the White House and Democrats argue it is about going forward, rather
than backward to failed policies.
The challenge for Democrats will be to translate their vision of a better
future into more positive feelings about the economy among voters.
In the poll, Republicans have the advantage among the independents often
critical to winning elections. Among independents likely to vote, Republican
congressional candidates are preferred to Democrats, 50 percent to 29 percent.
“Anything that has been tried hasn’t resulted in making anything better in the
world where ordinary people live,” Selzer said. “That’s a bad scenario for
incumbents of the majority party.”
A third of poll participants (34%) say they would be less likely to vote for a
candidate who has served in Congress for many years. About one-fifth of likely
voters (21%) say the election is more about sending a message, while
three-quarters (75%) say it is about picking the party that has the best
The proportion who feel the nation is headed in the wrong direction is about
the same as at this point in 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress,
and 2006, when Democrats took over.
The public also has soured on Obama’s foreign-policy priority, the war in
Afghanistan. While the president has ordered an expansion of forces to turn
the tide in a conflict where he says the U.S. has a critical stake, 58 percent
say it is a lost cause, compared with 36 percent who say it can still be won.
A slim majority of Republicans -- 52 percent -- say the U.S. can still win in
Afghanistan, while 71 percent of Democrats say the conflict is lost.
Six in 10 Americans (60%) say it would be best to stick with Obama’s plan to
start withdrawing forces in July 2011, while one-third (37%) say they remain
open to keeping the same number of troops there, or even adding additional
Reflecting the belief among many that the war cannot be won, a third of
Americans (34%) say they have become less supportive of the effort there in
One signpost for Democrats in the poll is the finding that just 26 percent of
Americans say it would help a Democratic candidate in their area to get a
visit from Obama, while 20 percent say it would hurt the candidate and 54
percent say it wouldn’t matter or they don’t know.
Obama’s worst ratings are for his handling of the budget deficit, where 59
percent disapprove and 37 percent approve. It’s his worst grade for that
subject in any of four Bloomberg polls taken since September 2009.
Economy, Health Care
Slim majorities disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy and health care.
When it comes to creating jobs, he gets 46 percent approval, addressing
problems on Wall Street, 42 percent support, running the war in Afghanistan,
46 percent approve, and managing the BP Plc oil spill, 46 percent support.
Forty-five percent say they have become more supportive in recent months of
tougher regulations for Wall Street. The momentum is heading in the opposite
direction from the White House and Democrats on most other issues.
Almost half (48%) say they have become less supportive in recent months of
federal money being loaned to automotive companies to help them stay in
business, while 37 percent have become less supportive of the health-care
overhaul passed by Congress earlier this year. A majority, 61 percent, say the
nation should wait and see how the health-care legislation works or leave it
alone, while 37 percent want to see it repealed.
Arizona Immigration Law
Almost half of Americans (48%) say they have also grown more supportive of
allowing local law enforcement to detain anyone who can’t produce proof of
citizenship when stopped for an offense, as is contemplated in an Arizona law.
Obama has criticized the measure and the Justice Department has announced it
plans to sue Arizona.
At least half of respondents (51% and 50%) also say they would be less likely
to support candidates who voted to give financial assistance to the banking or
Americans are roughly divided on whether they would be more or less likely to
support a candidate who voted against extending unemployment benefits because
of concern over the cost. A measure providing such support worth $34 billion
is stalled in Congress.
The disaffection with Obama and Democrats doesn’t carry over to all Democrats.
Hillary Clinton, 62, is viewed favorably by 61 percent of respondents and a
quarter of Americans, including 30 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of
Democrats, say the nation would be in a better place if she had been elected
The Tea Party movement, which has been mainly associated with Republicans, has
lukewarm support in the poll. A majority (58%) of all respondents says it
would make no difference to them if a candidate was backed by Tea Party
activists, while a third of Republicans (34%) say that kind of backing would
make a candidate more appealing to them.
Those who are more likely to think the Tea Party is a simplistic and misguided
movement -- 44 percent of all respondents -- include Democrats, 65 percent,
and those with the highest incomes, 52 percent. Independent voters are divided
on whether it is misguided or has rightly identified that the nation would be
better served by reduced federal government, compared with 39 percent overall.
Methodology: The Bloomberg National Poll is based on interviews with 1,004
U.S. adults ages 18 or older. Percentages based on the full sample may have a
maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Kristin Swenson, +1-212-617-4264
Ty Trippet, +1-212-617-2443