Our unpopular president.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By JAY COST
Barack Obama is not popular. This plain and simple fact may surprise those who read only legacy journalists, who often elide this inconvenient truth. A recent Associated Press write-up is illustrative:
Even as the public remains closely divided about his presidency, Barack Obama is holding on to his support from the so-called “Obama coalition” of minorities, liberals and young Americans, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows, creating an incentive for the next Democratic presidential nominee to stick with him and his policies.
Obama’s job approval in this poll was a paltry 43 percent, with 55 percent disapproval. This is hardly a public “closely divided,” but it is typical of the media’s approach. They prefer to gloss over his bad numbers, point out the weakness of the GOP, or emphasize how popular he is among Democrats.
But ignoring a fact does not make it any less true. Obama is unpopular, and he has been unpopular for a while. The most straightforward definition of a popular president is one who garners at least 50 percent approval in public opinion polls. The last time Obama hit that mark in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls was April 2013. Excepting brief boosts corresponding to his reelection and the killing of Osama bin Laden, he has consistently been under 50 percent in the RCP average since December 2009. This makes him one of the least popular presidents in postwar history.
Gallup has kept regular track of presidential approval since the Truman administration. It reports that the most popular postwar presidents were Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton; their job approval ratings were 50 percent or better for at least two-thirds of their tenures. The least popular presidents were Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter; theirs were below 50 percent for at least two-thirds of their tenures. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush fall somewhere in between.
To date, Obama has been unpopular for more than two-thirds of his tenure. If he stays under 50 percent for the remainder of his term, he will have been unpopular for longer than any postwar leader.
Obama’s numbers have been remarkably stable, typically hovering between 42 and 45 percent approval, outside those honeymoon periods. This distinguishes him from Truman, Ford, and Carter, whose numbers sunk much lower (as did George W. Bush’s and Nixon’s). The difference is that Obama has retained strong support from Democrats, while other presidents lost substantial intraparty support. With Obama at the helm, the Democratic party is as united as it has been since the mid-1930s. Will Rogers’ famous quip—“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”—is no longer apt. Democratic disunity was evident as late as 2000, when Ralph Nader poached a decisive share of the progressive vote from Al Gore, but it is no more.
Democratic loyalists (which includes voters who identify as independent but reliably vote Democrat) are a solid 5 to 8 points short of an outright majority, however, contradicting boasts from party operatives that demographics give them a lock on the White House. Most public opinion polls sample adults, who tend to be more Democratic than actual voters, yet still consistently show the president falling quite short of 50 percent. If Obama were indeed the herald of an enduring Democratic majority, we should see this first and foremost in the RCP average. But in fact, we find the opposite: The president, while holding his base together, has nevertheless alienated the critical mass of independent voters who determine elections.
Historically speaking, changes in presidential job approval track fairly closely with three factors: a war going badly, scandal, and recession. When any of these occurs, presidential approval falls. When several happen at once—as with Truman, Nixon, and George W. Bush—presidential approval can fall very low indeed. Yet Obama’s tenure has not seen such problems, at least not to the extent past presidents have. Sure, the rise of ISIS is terrible, the IRS targeting conservative groups is highly objectionable, and the economy remains mired in weakness. But none compares to Vietnam in 1967, Watergate in 1974, or the economy in 2008.
12:01 AM, Jul 11, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Pope, President, Prices and Paris. That covers just about everything you need to know about the next step in the battle to prevent what has come to be called climate change, the title now preferred to “global warming” by those who worry that CO2 emissions are causing, er, global warming.
12:34 PM, May 6, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican, has written a letter to President Barack Obama regarding the request that Congress "fast-track" legislation on Trade Promotion Authority. Sessions says he has a number of questions Congress should expect answers to before the body agrees to "yield its institutional powers." Read the full letter below:
Dear Mr. President:
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:10 PM, Feb 16, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama, the Copenhagen shootings, and ISIS.
Hosted by Michael Graham.11:20 PM, Jan 20, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Bill Kristol on President Obama's State of the Union address:
Liberals make excuses for ObamaSep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By NOEMIE EMERY
All of a sudden, people have noticed that we are in trouble, and many are saying it isn’t the president’s fault. All the bad news, from Iraq to Ukraine, from Libya and Syria to the Mexican border, just seems to have happened: Obama was standing there, golfing or shaking hands with donors, and, like a burst of bad weather, the winds blew, the skies opened, and things went to hell. Mysterious forces conspired against him, terrible setbacks occurred for no reason, and we were left with effects without a cause.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:35 PM, Feb 3, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with executive editor Fred Barnes on the pre-Super Bowl interview Fox News's Bill O'Reilly had with President Obama, and how it shows what a bad job the White House Press Corps is doing.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:05 PM, Dec 17, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the president's plunging poll numbers.
Obama from bad to worse. Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By FRED BARNES
In his second term, President Obama won’t lead or compromise. But he still manages to find ways to keep the country divided.
Obama’s presidency, Politico said last week, “is in a dead zone.” But it’s worse than that. In Congress, most Republicans and a good number of Democrats distrust Obama’s motives. More often than not, it’s unclear whether he wants to enact legislation or exploit an issue to blame Republicans as obstructionists and improve Democratic chances of winning the House in the 2014 midterm elections.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:55 PM, Jun 17, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on President Obama's falling polling numbers.
Jun 3, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 36 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office, “The Buck Stops Here.” Sixty years later, President Obama hangs a sign on the door to the Oval Office, “Do Not Disturb.” In 1978, about halfway between the two liberal presidents, Harvey Mansfield, as we’ve noted before, diagnosed the decline: “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. . . . Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”
Apr 15, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 29 • By FRED BARNES
When Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to President Obama, spoke at a Politico event last week, he was asked what would constitute success in 2013 for the White House. One of his answers was making headway to “rebalance our economy.” The goal, he said, is an economy that’s “not top down.”
Apr 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 28 • By BARACK OBAMA
Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages—to be ‘masters of their own fate’ in ‘their own sovereign state.’ . . .
It's time for the Obama Administration to change our Falklands policy.3:53 PM, Mar 20, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Philip Terzian on his editorial, Stand with the Falklands. Hosted by Michael Graham.