There are early signs that the roaring controversy over top-secret National Security Agency surveillance of phone and Internet records of Americans and foreigners is chipping away at President Obama’s approval rating--but Republicans shouldn’t be counting votes yet.
Despite a two percentage point drop in Obama’s overall job approval rating since the bombshell stories broke late last week, there is no sign of erosion within the president’s Democratic political base, according to a new survey by Zogby Analytics. The upside of political gridlock for Obama may be that it limits just how far his favorability numbers can drop.
Since the NSA’s PRISM program was exposed last Thursday, revealing nearly six years of data mining from the nation’s largest Internet companies--including Google and Facebook--Obama's overall job approval rating dipped two percentage points to 51 percent, according to the new poll.
Coming on the heels of reports about other government snooping on the phone records of reporters and other U.S. businesses and ordinary Americans, one might have expected to see a more pronounced decline in popularity. But whatever additional damage these revelations might be having on Obama’s approval rating among Republicans and independents, he is still enjoying overwhelming support from Democrats (90 percent), liberals (89 percent), Hispanics (78 percent), and African Americans (93 percent).
The controversies over NSA data mining, IRS targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department’s surveillance of reporters’ phone records have reignited the Tea Party movement and offended liberal supporters who believed Obama would dismantle the most intrusive aspects of the Patriot Act implemented by George W. Bush.
Yet there was little in the Zogby polling results that reflected those developments. It’s possible it will take more time before those sentiments and concerns among liberal Democrats are picked up by pollsters. John Zogby said, “The GOP doesn't appear to be making any hay” with voters when they are asked which party is better at handling each of the major issues.
The Rasmussen Poll conducted over the weekend shows the president’s approval rating dropping by four points, from 51 percent to 47 percent, while Gallup found Obama’s approval rating rising by four points – from 44 percent to 48 percent over roughly the same period. The RealClearPolitics average for polls conducted between May 22 and June 9 shows the president with a 47.1 percent approval rating – or essentially no change since late last month.
Yet when Mr. Obama is measured on how well he is doing on a handful of major issues, a much different story emerges, according to Zogby Analytics. The poll shows the President's performance on taxes is viewed positively by only 34 percent. He doesn't fare all that much better on the budget (33 percent), the economy (36 percent), and health care (39 percent). Yet the president – who held an informal summit over the weekend with new Chinese President Xi Jinxing in California -- does have majority-support on handling foreign policy (50 percent), the environment (50 percent) and "understanding the needs of the middle class (52 percent). It is important to note that he has a pretty good personal favorable rating: 52 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable.
On taxes, it is a tie, with 39 percent of respondents saying the Democrats are better at it and 40 percent choosing the Republicans, while 20 percent were not sure. An interesting sidelight is that while Hispanics generally endorse Democratic policies over Republican approaches, on taxes they are cooler to the Democrats, choosing them over the Republicans by only a 47 percent to 37 percent margin, according to the Zogby poll.
On the budget, Republicans held a slight edge over the Dems -- 40 percent to 37 percent, with 21 percent not sure, and even slighter on the economy, 41 percent Republicans and 39 percent Democrats, with 20 percent not sure.