Over the past few days, media coverage has been dedicated almost entirely to the debt negotiations between President Obama and more outspoken members of Congress. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, this let slide an interesting statement by the self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said, "I think it would be good if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
For one of the most outspoken defenders of universal healthcare, same-sex marriage, and environmentalism to be challenging Obama signals major problems with what should be Obama's most ardent base of supporters, which is also confirmed by new polls from CBS, NBC, and ABC. The networks, however, are failing to report their own polls because they reflect poorly on the president.
Obama's campaign team has been forcing a centrist image upon the president gearing up for 2012, vying for the independents who pushed him to victory in 2008. The independents were the ones who abandoned Obama first, dropping their support when America wanted solutions to the economy and jobs but all Obama wanted to do was pass healthcare through Congress.
Progressive politicians like Sanders have been turned off by the centrist branding of Obama. As Sanders explained, "I think one of the reasons President Obama has moved as far to the right as he has is he thinks he can go all the way and no one will stand up to him." Independents seem to have dumped him for the opposite reason, for being too progressive, but if Obama can't hold support from either side of the balance, then his base of support will wither away.
According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Sanders and the independents are not the only ones in Obama's crumbling base of support. Some of the highlights from their polling:
- 82% of Americans still say the job market in their area is struggling
- [N]early half...call it “very” difficult to find jobs in their area
- Ninety percent rate [the national economy] negatively, including half who give the economy the most negative rating, “poor.”
- [A] mere 15 percent say they're "getting ahead financially" Obama’s approval rating on handling the economy has slipped below 40 percent for the first time, to 39 percent.
- Fifty-seven percent disapprove, and strong disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by more than 2 to 1
Likewise, CBS found only 43% of respondents approved of Obama's handling of debt ceiling negotiations, and NBC News/Wall Street Journal found 54% disapproved of the way Obama is handling the economy as a whole. As NewsBusters and MRC's Kyle Drennen explains, though, the media avoided discussing Obama's poor polling in favor of discussing low polling numbers for Republicans.
All three networks did find time to use their respective poll findings to focus blame for the stalemate on the Republican Party. On Tuesday's ABC World News, anchor Diane Sawyer proclaimed: "Republicans baring the brunt of the blame, 67% disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the economy."
On Wednesday's NBC Today, political director Chuck Todd declared: "Most of this poll shows that the middle of the country and a majority of Americans basically don't like the Republican position on this debt plan."
Finally, on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge observed: "And congressional Republicans also have an issue here as well. Seventy-one percent say they disapprove of their handling of things."
A LexisNexis search on Obama's declining poll numbers revealed that the Washington Post's Ylan Q. Mui and Jon Cohen were the only ones to responsibly note the poll, leading their report with a note of Obama's erosion of support from his base.
More than a third of Americans now believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy, and confidence in his ability to create jobs is sharply eroding among his base, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
While the low poll numbers for Republicans are also reported, Mui and Cohen go on to describe the sharply declining support from two of Obama's key voting blocs: Liberal Democrats and blacks.
The Post-ABC poll found that the number of liberal Democrats who strongly support Obama’s record on jobs plunged 22 points from 53 percent last year to 31 percent. The number of African Americans who believe the president’s actions have helped the economy has dropped from 77 percent in October to just over half of those surveyed.
As the country increasingly disapproves of Obama's handling of the economy, the networks only want to focus on the numbers against Republicans. Sanders may come from an entirely different viewpoint, but he sees the peril in Obama's presidency as well, believing that Obama has taken his position as party leader for granted and deserves a challenge from a more progressive leader. While he wouldn't name any names, he said in the same interview, "You know, I think you know the names out there as well as I do. And I think the American people have got to be engaged. It’s not just me or anybody else here in Washington. There are a lot of smart honest progressive people who I think can be good presidents [sic]."
Even if Obama has hauled in the most money, money doesn't always translate into votes. With signs of weakened support from his most liberal supporters and independent voters at over a year out from Election Day, the poll numbers are not currently swinging in Obama's favor.