Coming off his first State of the Union address Wednesday, President Obama appears to be in better political shape with the American people than has been widely assumed.
Already anxious going into this year’s midterm elections, the fear of many Democrats grew as Obama poll numbers continued to slide. That worry exploded into near-panic earlier this month when a Republican captured a Senate seat from Massachusetts for the first time in more than 30 years. That Scott Brown won that special election even after Obama stumped at the last minute for the Democrat put an exclamation mark for many on just how far the president had fallen since his historic Inauguration just a year earlier.
Obama, himself, acknowledged political setbacks — and even acknowledged some were deserved — during his televised address before a joint session of Congress.
But polling indicates that despite the scars of a nearly year-long, and as yet unsuccessful, battle to enact comprehensive healthcare legislation, the president does not appear to be the political pariah among the broad American electorate that Democrats fear, and Republicans hope, he has become.
Instant polling after the State of Union demonstrates that Obama was able to use his 71-minute speech to connect successfully with Americans. Some 48 percent rated the speech as a very positive, with three in 10 saying they had a somewhat positive response and just 21 percent with a negative response, according to a CNN survey.
Meanwhile, a CBS News poll finds that 83 percent of Americans support the proposals Obama outlined in the State of the Union, which included initiatives to bolster the middle class, as well as a broad three-year freeze on most federal spending in an attempt to rein in the deficit.
Even before he spoke the nation Wednesday, Americans continued to feel warmly toward Obama.
A majority of likely voters (51 percent) say they are proud to have Barack Obama as president, according to a Zogby Interactive poll. One-in-three likely voters (35 percent) are ashamed while 14 percent are undecided, the Zogby survey finds. While there is a strong partisan divide, independents are more likely to be proud of Obama (45 percent) than ashamed (34 percent).
And even in that Massachusetts special election that is supposed to have been the “wake-up call” that even voters in the reliably Democratic Bay State are fed up with Obama, a poll featured in the Washington Post indicates that six in 10 voters in that Jan. 19 election actually approve of Obama’s job performance and about half the voters say Obama was not a factor in their vote.
These various polling results do not invalidate the slump in Obama’s approval ratings since this summer. But taken together, they do paint a picture that is less dire and more fluid than recent conventional wisdom may indicate. Although there are partisans angry with Obama on both the Right and Left, his poorer approval ratings likely could be a reflection of dissatisfaction than a wholesale abandonment. Indeed, these polling results may indicate that although voters may register approval, or disapproval, at any given time, the broad electorate still hopes for Obama’s ultimate success.
The publisher of the news site, On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and Washington for more than a decade.