The President's problems: approval drops along with personal ratings

December 04, 2013, 1:59 PM GMT+0

President Obama's approval rating has fallen substantially over the last year, but people increasingly dislike him as a person, too.

One year ago, a few weeks after his re-election, American opinion of President Barack Obama was mixed; his approval rating was barely 50%, even as he celebrated his re-election. But while Americans in the Economist/YouGov Poll may have been divided on his past performance, he remained generally well-liked and even admired by many Americans.

But in the last year – one marked by budget squabbles with Congress, and problems with the implementation of the President’s signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, he finds himself increasingly disliked, with his approval rating only a few points above its all-time low, and with many Americans ready to write off the health care law as failed legislation.

There has been a ten-point drop in approval for the President in the last year. Only 39% now approve of the way he is handling his job. Today, 57% disapprove of the way he is handling his job, also up ten points from early December 2012.

And the drop has come across the board. Approval among Democrats is down ten points, from 86% a year ago to 76% today. Last year, just over half of Democrats “strongly” approved; only a third do today. Republicans, just 12% of whom approved of the President a year ago have slipped even further -- to just 4% approval now. 96% of Republicans disapprove, 83% disapprove strongly. The drop in approval for independents has been 11 points, from 41% then to 30% now. Two in three independents today disapprove of the President’s job performance.

Approval of the President rose in the wake of his re-election, though it was never especially high; positive assessments began to fade last spring, and plummeted in the summer and fall. This time the drop in approval, unlike a similar drop in late 2011, has also affected evaluations of the President personally. Two years ago, at a time when 38% approved of the way the President was handling his job, just 25% disliked the President as a person; in this week’s poll more than a third do.

A majority of Republicans then and now dislike the President personally. The share of independents saying they dislike him as a person has jumped from 24% two years ago to 36% today.

A year ago, a majority of Americans had a favorable view of the President; now a majority are unfavorable.

One year ago, independents were evenly divided on their view of the President, now they are decidedly negative. Today, only 30% of independents have an overall favorable view of the President; nearly two in three – 62% -- are not.

One quality that the President has lost stature on is his genuineness and his honesty. His willingness to say what he really meant was also under attack two years ago. Majorities both then and now thought President Obama said mostly what people wanted to hear, not what he really believed. But now, as he is under attack for the truthfulness of statements he made before the health care law was passed that anyone who liked their current coverage could keep it, fewer are willing to use the word “honest” to describe him.

Significantly more would not describe him as honest.

Another suggestion that Americans may not trust the President when it comes to the ACA implementation was seen in the Economist/YouGov Poll conducted two weeks ago. In that poll, half the respondents believed the President was aware of problems with the website before the site launched in October; just 23% thought he wasn’t aware of the problems.

The continuing difficulties in implementing the health care law are not helping. There has been no improvement in recent weeks in the way Americans view the law – and its website. Despite the recent upgrades to the website, Americans continue to be nearly three times as likely to report negative experiences when using it as to say their time on the site was positive. More than half say that their experience was “very” negative.

And a majority continues to believe that currently the plan is a failure: this week, 58% say it is. Far more want to repeal the health care law (48%) than would either expand it (26%) or keep it as it is (10%).

There may still be time. Two-thirds claim they won’t be able to reach a final decision on the health care reform for at least a few months. But 29% are ready to pronounce judgment right now (and most of them are not happy). Perhaps if the Affordable Care Act is eventually judged a success by the public, the President’s ratings – and the assessments of his character -- will rebound as well.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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