WASHINGTON, January 27, 2014 — A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News showing low approval ratings for President Obama is further raising the importance of his State of the Union speech tomorrow.
According to the poll, 50 percent of those polled now disapprove of President Obama’s performance. His approval rating is at 46 percent, up from a November low of 42 percent, but still extremely low. Last year, his approval rating registered 55 percent. The poll further shows that 63 percent of respondents lack confidence in Obama’s ability to make the right decisions for the country’s future.
According to the poll, 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy, and 59 percent disapprove of his handling of the implementation of his signature health care law.
Only 48 percent of respondents say Obama is a strong leader and only 47 percent say he understand the problems of “people like you.” Only 49 percent believe he is trustworthy.
While 50 percent of respondents approve of the way the President is handling terrorism, only 39 percent support the way he his handling Iran and only 33 percent approve of his policies toward Syria.
For Obama, tomorrow’s State of the Union is critical for turning the tide on the plummeting numbers and reviving support for the remainder of his term.
Although the State of the Union is now less watched than in previous years, at least 40 million people will tune in. More will hear or read excerpts after the speech, and still more will hear or read commentary after the fact.
Obama is not eligible to stand for re-election, but popularity still matters. If Obama fails to win back supporters, he is likely to face difficulty for the remainder of his term.
Congress is unlikely to work with a President who has falling popularity numbers. Opposition members will attempt to ride the wave of Obama’s unpopularity by voting against him, knowing there will be little political fallout from their actions. The President is likely to have a very difficult time pushing legislation through Congress without public weight behind his measures, forcing him to resort to his pen and his phone.
Even Obama’s own party will scatter if he cannot win back popular support. Rather than standing with the President on crucial issues, Democrats will save themselves as the midterm elections approach if the public continues to question Obama.
From a personal standpoint, falling poll numbers mean Obama’s legacy is in question. The President almost certainly does not want to leave office as the president with the lowest approval ratings or as the president who oversaw political stalemate.
For the President, tomorrow’s State of the Union is the chance for him to connect with his previous supporters and attempt to woo them with the charm that elected him to the White House. At this point, that is quite a daunting challenge.
One saving grace for Obama is the lack of support for his political opponents.
Only 16 percent of respondents approve of the way Congress is doing its job and only 19 percent trust Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country’s future.
Democrats fare little better, with only 27 percent of respondents trusting Democrats in Congress to make the right decisions for the country’s future.
The bottom line message from the poll is that leaders on both sides of the aisle have a long way to go to win back Americans.