Obama Remains a Big Drag on Democrats’ Prospects
Policy + Politics

Obama Remains a Big Drag on Democrats’ Prospects

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Congressional Republicans hold a four-point advantage over Democrats in a generic campaign matchup just two months before the November election, with President Obama’s lowly approval rating continuing to pose a drag on his party, according to a new Politico/George Washington University national survey released Wednesday.

Fifty-one percent of likely voters say they disapprove of Obama’s performance on both domestic and foreign policy, compared with just 44 percent who support the president’s actions, according to the survey conducted jointly by The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, two polling firms.

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Most striking – and potentially harmful to the Democrats – are the consistently high negative numbers for Obama’s performance in such key policy areas as the economy, federal spending and the budget, foreign policy and immigration. On immigration, 58 percent of respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s performance, while just 38 percent approve.

Immigration looms as one of the three hottest issues in the election, according to a Fiscal Times analysis this week. Obama and House Republicans are so far apart on immigration reform that the president had vowed earlier in the summer to take executive action to protect potentially millions of illegal immigrants and their children from deportation.

“If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama declared before Congress departed in early August for a five-week summer recess. But under pressure from Democrats fearing a voter backlash from such a controversial and unilateral move, the White House signaled last week that it may put off a decision until after the election.

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The new poll suggests the House Republicans’ hard line against any immigration move that hints at “amnesty” for illegal immigrants is gaining traction with likely voters. When voters were asked to rate the two parties on key issues, they gave Republicans a seven-point advantage over the Democrats on immigration policy – 48 percent to 41 percent. The GOP also held an advantage over the Democrats on the economy (by seven points), the federal budget and spending (by 13 points), and taxes (by six points).

Of the dozen issues that voters were queried on, Obama only received a favorable rating for “standing up for the middle class.” Even there, voters were nearly evenly divided with 50 percent giving Obama a high rating and 48 percent saying they disapproved.

There is plenty of evidence Americans are feeling quite bleak about the economy and their families’ futures, including an early August Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showing that 71 percent believe the country is on the “wrong track,” while 7 in 10 blame the malaise on Obama and Congress more than on structural problems with the recovery, as The Fiscal Times previously reported

In the new Politico-GWU survey, a similar 70 percent of the electorate said the country was on the “wrong track,” while only 21 percent say the U.S. is headed in the right direction. When voters were asked why they thought the country was on the wrong track, the most common explanation (19 percent) had to do with the quality of Obama’s leadership, while other explanations had to do with conflict and upheaval overseas and Congress’s poor performance.

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The new survey provides good news for Republicans – who typically trail the Democrats in generic matchups. The GOP is battling to regain control of the Senate while retaining a majority in the House. (The poll surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide Aug. 24 through Aug. 28, and included a protocol for reaching mobile phone users. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.)

Until recently, pollsters and analysts have said the GOP likely would pick up the six Democratic-held seats needed to regain control of the Senate. But some endangered Democratic incumbents – including Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina – have shown remarkable resilience, while other races are now more of a challenge for Republicans. Moreover, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are locked in tough reelection campaigns.

Politico reported today that – based on interviews with two dozen party operatives and campaign aides – the GOP holds a slight edge “because the playing field tilts conservative” but that “the overwhelming sentiment was uncertainty” about the November results. 

“There are probably five states where there’s a statistical tie right now,” Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Politico. “Many of them are right on the knife’s edge.”

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