Skip to comments.Fickle independents returning to Barack Obama
Posted on 01/24/2011 8:51:36 AM PST by SeekAndFind
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats learned at least one big lesson in the November elections: What the independent voter gives, the independent voter can also take away.
But now, the same temperamental bloc that threw House Democrats out of power appear to be in a giving mood again - at least as far as Obama is concerned.
That unpredictable, cranky group of voters who helped carry the president into office two years ago before turning against him in dramatic fashion, may be turning back in Obamas direction even more quickly.
A series of national polls released over the last week shows Obamas approval rating on the upswing among voters who dont affiliate with either political party.
In two polls, Obamas standing with independents jumped by double digits. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed him clocking 46 percent approval among independents - an 11-point increase since December.
A CNN/Opinion Research survey was even more sanguine, showing a 15-point leap for Obama, to 56 percent approval.
A third poll, conducted for CBS and the New York Times, gave the president a more conservative, 43 percent approval number among independents. But even that poll showed him in net positive territory. Just 39 percent of independents said they disapproved of Obamas performance, marking a startling reversal since October, when his disapproval rating was 15 points higher with independents than his approval rating.
Analysts point to a number of explanations for Obamas rise, including his reassuring response to the Tucson shooting, his willingness to cut deals with the congressional GOP and the presence of a new political foil for Obama, in the form of emboldened conservative Republicans.
The bigger picture is that Obama seems to be getting at least something of a second chance with a hugely influential slice of the electorate that abandoned Democrats in droves during the 2009 and 2010 elections.
Republican pollster David Winston acknowledged that Obama has had a good run with the political middle lately.
There are two events that have occurred that are significant and I think people are trying to think through: He agreed to work with the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts and, two, he delivered a good speech in Tucson, Winston said.
But Winston emphasized that while independent voters may be in the political center, they arent in the ideological center, meaning that even under the best of circumstances theyll be a difficult group for Obama to hang onto.
Independents are a center-right group, he said. Thats why Republicans have been able to put together majorities and thats the challenge to the president.
Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein had a similar assessment of why Obamas numbers have improved, arguing that Obama is again projecting the even-handed image that led independent voters to like him in the first place - and that he began to lose over the course of his first two years in office.
Without apportioning blame for the lack of bipartisanship, the takeaway for a lot of voters was basically, the house is on fire and were bickering about which tchotchkes to save, Gerstein said, citing the protracted debate over health care that unfolded amid economic stagnation.
I dont think theyre necessarily looking at Democrats again. Theyre looking for leadership, he continued. Why has Obama rebounded? First and foremost, he heard the message about working together and that there has to be more compromise.
The fact that independent voters are even relatively upbeat about the president is striking, given what a clear, negative judgment they issued on his party last November.
After backing Obama by 8 percentage points in 2008, independents supported Republicans by a 19-point margin in the 2010 congressional elections.
On a state-by-state level, some of the swings were even more stunning. In Wisconsin, independents voted for Obama by 19 points in 2008. In the states 2010 Senate race, they broke by 13 points for now-GOP Sen. Ron Johnson a 32-point shift in just two years.
In Pennsylvania, independents went from supporting Obama by 19 points to backing Republican Senate candidate (and now Sen.) Pat Toomey by 10 percent.
Other presidential battlegrounds, including Ohio and Florida, showed similar movement among independents in 2010. And a year earlier, Virginia independents went from supporting Obama by 1 percentage point to backing Republican Bob McDonnell for governor by a 33-point margin.
That Obamas numbers are even slightly bouncing back among these voters is a testament to their volatility.
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm thats one of the few to show Obamas approval with independents still underwater, said its hard for any politician to cement in place their standing with independent voters.
Independents are anti-politician in general, Jensen said. We find very few elected officials who are particularly popular with them and thats partly because choosing not to identify with either major political party is a general sign of skepticism toward our political system and the politicians who fuel it.
Thats especially hard for Democrats, Jensen argued, because independents are a right leaning group to begin with and that means the deck is stacked against Obama being popular with them from the start.
PPP continues to show Obama with just a 37 percent approval rating among independents, compared with a 57 percent disapproval rating. Thats the most pessimistic recent polling result for the president with this group of voters.
But a survey from ABC News and the Washington Post also placed Obamas approval rating in net negative territory with unaffiliated voters, showing 46 percent approving of his performance and 51 percent disapproving.
And while Gallup gives Obama a solid, 46 percent approval rating with independents the pollster recorded only a modest, single digit increase since mid-December, when Obama was at 41 percent.
Still, coming a few months after devastating midterm elections, when Democrats lost 63 House seats, six Senate seats and a half-dozen governorships, even somewhat more stable numbers are an improvement for the presidents party - and a sign that independents are once again up for grabs.
Independent voters are the ultimate jump ball in politics. Theyre up on the rim, rolling around, sometimes they fall in the hoop, sometimes they dont, said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. I see no evidence that they have locked in on anybody or anything, including Republicans, Barack Obama or Democrats.
Summing up Obamas recent gains, Fleischer added: He tipped the independent ball into the hoop for a week.
Obama may also be benefiting from the fact that the same Republican antagonists who spent two years hammering him on health care, spending and the economy now have a responsibility to govern.
In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the Republican Partys net favorability rating sank by 11 points from 28 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable in December, to 23 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable this month.
Democrats, meanwhile, returned to near-parity in the poll, going from 13 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable last month to 29 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable now.
Those arent blockbuster ratings for either party, but with a group of voters that often considers all its options unpalatable, its at least a sign that Democrats can again compete to be the least-bad option for independents.
Just because I dont think Obama will ever be very popular with independents doesnt mean I dont think hell win them in the 2012 election. Independents end up making a lot of lesser of two evils calculations when it comes to voting, Jensen said. I think Obamas slightly unpopular with independents at mid-40s approval but that he can still win a majority of their votes next year if the GOP doesnt come up with a better candidate.
Winston emphasized that even in some of the polls that show Obama doing better with independents, many of those voters still disapprove of his handling of the economy - the issue most strategists believe will decide the 2012 election.
He has not put back together his majority coalition, by any stretch, Winston said, adding that Obamas address to Congress on Tuesday might be a good indicator of whether he can sustain his gains.
I think the State of the Union is a very big speech for President Obama, because basically what were going to see in that speech I where he thinks he can go with his policies, given that last election.
In before the pictures of Bagdad Bob.
Independents no longer trust him. He abused their vote last time around and they know he will use them again.
His Rasmussen approval rating had been in double digits for almost 2 years;today its -4.People are,indeed,gullible.
I saw a poll from Foxnews that showed even though Obama’s approval number had gone up, 52% said they would NOT VOTE TO RE-ELECT him.
Expect the media to go into overdrive trying to convince the nation that everyone loves Obama.
Independent voter is just a fancy name for a wind sock.
Somehow, I don’t think so. Looks like the MSM whistling past the graveyard.
I’m unsure about this.
I have my doubts.
There is still no job creation to speak of.
The deficit is still way too high and our national debt is getting worse by the second and this administration is doing nothing to stop the hemorrhaging.
The democrats have not denounced raising taxes.
The democrats have not denounced big government and their nanny state agenda.
The democrats have not taken any steps to eliminate costly and burdensome regulations governing business.
In short, I seriously doubt independents will drift toward democrats in large numbers given these facts.
Obama’s numbers are up because Republicans cut that stupid deal with him over Christmas-—no tax hikes and no amnesty in exchange for the DADT repeal, the FDA law, and the START treaty, giving him some semblance of a victory when they could have finished him once and for all if they had just waited until January.
Fools. The person in our presidency has been embracing Marxism most of his adult life, sat in a church for over 20 years that preached hatred of America and surrounded himself with fellow Marxists and independents is going to change the way he governs because he cares for the country? Idiots is all I can say. Temporarily he is tacking toward center because his polls were in the toilet and he wants to be the big man on campus again in 2012. That’s it! Anyone can be swayed by his recent comments and actions is smok’in something and doesn’t deserve to vote.
Independent is just another name for a wishy-washy moron who considers himself a deep thinker.
18 months is a lifetime in politics. We’ll see what happens in November.
Oh, for corn sakes.....He hasn’t been on the tube 5 times a day like he was before. THAT’s what is working in his favor.
And that campaign rally in Tucson made the whole even about him. He didn’t do any of his usual shuckin’ and jivin’ in that speech, ‘cause they wanted him to look and sound “fatherly”.
Before Tucson, there were some fractures beginning in the media coverage of the Kenyan. The shooting gave the media the opening they wanted and needed to resurrect his popularity.
I guess they all found jobs in the last month.
If they didn’t, I wouldn’t expect the bounce to last very long.
“Expect the media to go into overdrive trying to convince the nation that everyone loves Obama.”
I expect that. But there’s a darker side to this. Here in the blue part of Ohio, people don’t love Obama, but they see him as the only viable choice. And they like the man. Both of those things make my head hurt, but it’s what I see.
Fickle people should NEVER be allowed anywhere near a voting machine.
With apologies to those who consider themselves “independents” because they hate both parties...
When I hear the term “independent” used by the talking heads on TV (”centrists”, “moderates), I think of those who don’t understand the issues, and have no intent to research them because, well, politics are boring and “why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along” (with a nod to LA’s best known criminal for the quote). They usually vote based on how they “feel’. They gave us BO because he was “stirring” and they “hoped” he would be a good leader and were horrified at what he actually DID. But now? They are so SURE he has learned “something”, and are so willing to give him another chance.
Please God, save us from the oh-so-”reasonable” “moderates” before they sell us and our kids down the river.
I don’t believe a word of this.