23 February 2009

Obama Approval High, Others' Not So Much

At what point do Congressional Republicans acknowledge that a) the president is popular, and b) the vast majority of Americans support the president's policies? The problem is, to acknowledge either means being forced to a) accept that most Americans rejected the GOP, and b) work with--rather than against--President Obama's policy proposals.

A new CBS / NYT opinion poll falls in line with similar polls. The president's approval rating rests at 63%, correspondent with Ronald Reagan's and "about 10 percentage points higher than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton were at this early stage of their presidencies" (NYT). A second poll, by ABC/Washington Post, finds the president at a comfortable 68% approval rating (60% also agree with how he is handling the economy).

Other polling testifies that the public remains unhappy with Congress's performance, but the Democrats are receiving higher numbers than the GOP. From the ABC/WaPo poll:
50% of respondents approve of the Democrats (44% disapprove)
38% approve of the Republicans (56% disapprove).

When asked "who do you trust to do a better job handling the economy, President Obama or Republicans in Congress?," it breaks down to 61% to 26%--Obama overwhelms Republicans.
So only 26% of respondents have faith in Republicans' abilities to repair the economy, and folks are getting fairly tired of the GOP's current strategy of blanket opposition vs. reasoned debate. The New York Times's poll results suggest why things don't look so good for the GOP, and it has a little something to do with the "b" word (not what you think: it's "bipartisanship):
About three-quarters of those polled, including 61 percent of Republicans, said Mr. Obama has been trying to work with Republicans. But only 3 in 10 Americans said Republicans are doing the same, with 63 percent saying that Republicans opposed the economic stimulus package primarily for political reasons rather and policy concerns.

About 8 in 10 Americans said Republicans should be working in a bipartisan way rather than holding fast to their policies, the poll found, with almost three-quarters of Republican respondents agreeing that bipartisanship was preferable.

The poll found widespread support for Mr. Obama’s attempts to reach across the aisle during his first month in office. But 56 percent of those surveyed said the priority for the president should be following the policies he proposed during the campaign last year, rather than working with Republicans.[emphasis mine].
In other words, folks are willing to support the president should he issue a "my way or the highway" ultimatum (of course, they say that now--nobody really likes such ultimatums, do they? Such rhetoric is unreasonable). Naturally many people remain skeptical about whether Obama's policies will work--whether they'll be enough or whether they're too much--but most folks seem to trust the man's suggestions. Skepticism is good, it's healthy, and it's necessary. But skepticism differs from all out straight-jacketed opposition. We do need debate on how to qualify bailouts for industries and for homeowners, but conceding to an either/or dialectic isn't debate.

As Charlie Cook wrote the other day:
As polling very clearly shows, congressional Republicans have done nothing to help themselves by almost unanimously opposing the massive stimulus package. Indeed, they look increasingly isolated: a narrow party that is looking inward for sustenance. Selecting former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to be national party chairman is about the only intelligent thing that Republicans have done since Election Day. At this point, a Republican rebound seems more contingent upon a Democratic collapse than anything else. Certainly, Republicans aren't doing anything these days to help bring themselves back.
Do the GOP really hope for a "Democratic collapse" and that the president and his policies fail? It's all well and good to utter such snark when times are good, but when the country is in the midst of crisis--well, that's not the time to wish for further complications in the name of ideology.

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