Nation & World

As economy sputters, Obama's approval rating continues to sink

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's job approval rating has plunged to a dismal 39 percent, the lowest of his presidency, as increasing numbers disapprove of his handling of the nation's ailing economy, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The low job-approval rating among registered voters, down from 44 percent last month, suggests enormous trouble for a president who faces re-election in 14 months.

The 52 percent who disapprove of Obama's performance represents the first time that number has climbed over 50 percent.

"These numbers could typically spell doom for an incumbent," poll director Lee Miringoff said.

Even the president's remedies for the economy are being received coolly. One-third approved and 61 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy.

Sixty-one percent said the worst was yet to come for the economy, while 64 percent said that Obama's $447 billion jobs plan, which he's been pushing hard for days, didn't go far enough.

The poll surveyed 1,042 adults — 825 of them registered voters — last Tuesday and Wednesday. The margin of error for the entire sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points; for registered voters, it's 3.5 percentage points.

The president unveiled his jobs plan, which faces trouble in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and among liberal Democrats, before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. On Monday, he detailed a longer-term program for reducing deficits.

Congress is expected to begin considering the jobs package next month. The plan is aimed at bringing down the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate and boosting an economy that's barely growing. It would cut Social Security payroll taxes dramatically and increase spending on infrastructure and education, and it would impose higher taxes on the wealthy by limiting their itemized deductions.

Few see the plan as the antidote for the staggering economy. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats said it didn't go far enough. Fifty-four percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents felt the same way.

Add that to the ongoing pessimism about the economy, and Obama's personal numbers fell.

At the start of his presidency, from April to October 2009, his approval numbers ranged from 53 to 56 percent. He won 52.9 percent of the popular vote in November 2008.

The president pushed a huge stimulus package through Congress within weeks of his inauguration, but the slow economic recovery eventually took its political toll. Obama's job approval rating fell to 46 percent in December 2009 and hasn't gone above 48 percent since.

Miringoff warned, though, against drawing conclusions about Obama's fate next year. The president's favorability number remains higher than his job approval, and his opponent is still unknown.

Forty-six percent had favorable impressions of Obama, compared with 48 percent who viewed him unfavorably. And Democrats were sticking with him: Eighty percent still had favorable impressions.

Sixty percent said Obama had inherited the economic mess from President George W. Bush: The recession began in December 2007, while Bush was still in office. And by 46-41 percent, people said they trusted Obama more than congressional Republicans to create jobs.

But the overall favorability number was down from 52 percent in August, and the unfavorability number was up from 41 percent.

"Any way you look at it, the numbers do not paint a pretty picture," Miringoff said.

But the trends aren't working in his favor. Seventy-three percent of all those polled thought the nation was headed in the wrong direction, compared with 22 percent who thought it was on the right track.

That's up a smidgeon from August, when 21 percent said it was on the right track. Last month, 70 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction.


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