A new Washington Post poll finds, among other things, that a full 70 percent of Americans either believe Barack Obama has "tried but failed" to solve "the major problems facing the country" or has actually "made problems worse." That compares, by the way, with 71 percent of Americans in a December 2008 Pew Center poll who thought the same of outgoing President Bush.
Yet in analyzing the polling data, Post staffers Jon Cohen and Dan Balz buried bad news for the president deep in their page A1 August 11 article and suggested the sour view Americans have on the Congress was the bigger story for the upcoming election season (emphasis mine):
In the aftermath of the tumultuous debate over raising the debt ceiling, Americans give Washington a strong vote of no confidence, with barely a quarter of those surveyed recently saying the federal government can fix the nation’s economic problems and a large majority agreeing that the policymaking process is unstable and ineffective.
A new Washington Post poll underscores the damage done to President Obama and both political parties by the long standoff over the debt ceiling and the weakened economy. The results could have significant implications for both Republicans and Democrats, as record numbers of Americans now say they are interested in new congressional representation when they vote in November 2012.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans polled said they have little or no confidence in Washington to repair the economy. Confidence is down 21 percentage points from October 2010 and is less than half its 2002 levels. Roughly four in 10 have no confidence at all in the federal government when it comes to dealing with the economy, the poll indicates.
Balz and Cohen waited until the 15th paragraph in their 18-paragraph story to really sink into the anti-Obama poll numbers, and even then paired it off with data points that show voter frustration with congressional Republicans:
Confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country’s economic future is down 10 points, to 33 percent, since January. Confidence in congressional Republicans, at 35 percent in January, dropped to 18 percent.
*[More Americans polled said both Obama and Republicans have made things worse than said either side has made progress, although Republicans were judged more harshly on this question.]*
Just 10 percent of those surveyed said Republicans have made progress in solving major problems, compared with 19 percent who said as much of Obama. Thirty-five percent said Republicans have made things worse, and 28 percent said the same about the president.
Obama’s overall job ratings were 44 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval in the new poll, both down from three weeks ago, when he was at 47 and 48 percent, respectively. In this one-night poll, 10 percent expressed no opinion on this question, twice the mid-July level.
*This paragraph was in the Post's website version but absent in the print edition version.