Poll: More Americans Now Say Obama is ‘About the Same’ or ‘Worse’ Than Bush, as Independents Sour on Him

By Christopher Neefus | January 13, 2010 | 6:50 PM EST

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the earthquake in Haiti, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, at the White House in Washington (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - Despite a commanding election win some 14 months ago, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that more Americans now say Obama is performing “about the same” as or “worse” than President George W. Bush, and that he does not share their views on important issues.
The same poll showed that crucial independent voters disapprove of President Obama’s handling of a variety of issues in larger numbers than the general voting population.
The Quinnipiac Polling Institute report, released Wednesday, shows that a majority of respondents said Obama’s performance in the last year is comparable to that of President George W. Bush, who suffered some of the lowest approval ratings in history. 

Quinnipiac asked: “Do you think Barack Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, worse, or about the same as President Bush?”

Forty-three (43) percent of voters said he was a better president, 30 percent said worse, and 23 percent said “about the same.” In all, 53 percent considered Obama “about the same” or “worse” than Bush. 

Peter A. Brown, assistant director at the institute, said that was the case but cautioned that it is a matter of interpreting the numbers. 

“If you do the same addition, that means 66 percent think he was the same or better than Bush,” Brown told CNSNews.com. 

Given the view that Americans now seem to have of Bush, it is arguably more logical to lump those who say “about the same” in with those who say “worse.”

“Fairly or unfairly, George Bush left a sour taste in the mouth of more Americans than not, and you know, whether history will bear -- will change that -- or not, we’ll see, but, at this point ‘Bush’ is still a four-letter word to most Americans,” Brown said. 

Quinnipiac, which has a reputation for accurate, scientific polling, also found that independents, the crucial swing votes in national elections, were less favorable toward Obama’s job performance than the general voting population. 

Independents overall disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job as president by a 48 percent to 42 percent margin -- with 40 percent saying they believed his first year in office was “mainly” a success, versus 47 percent who deemed it "mainly" a failure. 

The general voting public was slightly more favorable, split evenly on both questions, 45 percent to 45 percent. 

Independents also disapproved of Obama’s performance on a host of issues -- from the economy to foreign policy to jobs -- in larger numbers than all voters.

The institute asked respondents each time: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling” a particular issue.

On the economy, 61 percent of independents disapproved, versus 34 percent who approved. Among all registered voters, respondents disapproved at a slightly lower rate – 54 percent to 41 percent. 

Obama’s handling of foreign policy fared a bit better, but independents still disapproved 50-43 percent (versus the general public, which was split 46-45). On “the situation in Afghanistan,” where Obama recently approved a surge of new troops, independents disapproved 48-42 percent, while the voters in general again split down the middle (45-45).

On health care, independents disapproved 63 percent to 31 percent versus results for all voters, who disapproved 58-35.

When it comes to job creation, which the president and Congress have begun to prioritize for 2010, independents disapprove 66 percent to 26 percent, also a greater margin than the general voting population’s 59-34 percent disapproval.  

Brown told CNSNews.com the responses from independents showed a shift since the 2008 election that could bode poorly for the administration’s agenda. “(I)f this remains the case or increases,” he said, “it’s bad news for the White House.”

“I mean, obviously, in many states, independents are the balance of power and what was true in 2008 is that independents went fairly substantially for Obama, and these days they’re not. So in 2010, if you get these independent numbers, Democrats will have problems.”

Only on terrorism do independents approve of Obama’s handling of matters, despite a recent barrage of criticism his administration faced after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. Independents approved by a slight margin, 47-45 percent, as did registered voters in general (48-44).

Brown said that despite the furor from Republicans on the administration’s handling of terror-related issues, he was not surprised to see Obama creep into positive territory on the issue.  

He said there is "an instinct" for the public to rally around a president against an outside enemy in foreign affairs. 

“I mean, people know how they feel about Bush and about Obama and the economy based on their economic situation and what they see around them. Terrorism is a little different,” Brown said.  

Despite having won the 2008 presidential election by a commanding 7 points (53 percent to 46 percent), the shift in independents coincides with a belief among registered voters that Obama does not see eye-to-eye with them on the issues that matter to them.
Quinnipiac asked: “Would you say that Barack Obama -- shares your views on issues that you care about or not?” A plurality of voters, 50 percent, said No, while 46 percent said he does agree with them. Independents again more strongly leaned against the president -- 54 percent said he was out of touch with their beliefs on issues, and just 41 percent said he shared their views.
Brown said that the approval numbers in the mid-40’s and a shifting independent base was not insurmountable. 

“I mean, these are not awful numbers for Obama and they’re not great numbers,” he said. “I mean, you’re at a crossroads. He doesn’t want to go too much lower (but) Bush got re-elected in 2004 with a job approval rating in the mid-40’s. Now, Bush was a 4-year incumbent at that point, but you know, 45 is not an awful job approval number. 

“It’s not great, but it’s not awful. (Y)ou know, you start going into the 30’s and then you’ve got problems," he added. 

The Quinnipiac Polling Institute conducted its survey Jan. 5-11, polling 1,767 registered voters. The poll carries of margin of error of +/- 2.3 percentage points. 

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