The Elbert Files: Polls set the stage for campaign
Friday, June 27, 2014 6:00 AM
A series of Bloomberg National Polls taken in early June by Des Moines pollster J. Ann Selzer provide an interesting portrait of the nation as this year’s political battles begin to take shape.
The polls found changing attitudes on issues as diverse as health care, climate change and the economy, but the big news was that support for President Obama and expected Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has slipped in recent months.
It showed the president’s job approval rating had fallen back to 43 percent, which is about where it was following the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act late last year.
The Gallup Poll, which has a longer history than the Bloomberg Poll, shows that Obama’s job approval has been as low as 38 percent, most recently in October 2011. But even that low is better than the numbers posted by three other modern presidents late in their terms. Harry Truman had the lowest approval rating at 22 percent, followed by Richard Nixon at 24 percent, and George W. Bush at 25 percent. Even the popular Ronald Reagan hit a low of 35 percent during the middle of his first term.
Bloomberg news stories blamed Obama’s low score on his mismanagement of the Department of Veterans Affairs and his handling of the swap of five Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years.
But the poll also found that 58 percent disapproved of Obama’s handling of health care and 57 percent did not like his management of the economy.
The Bloomberg Poll showed that Clinton’s favorability dropped to 52 percent in June from 56 percent in March and 70 percent in December 2012. (The poll was taken before Clinton began a highly publicized tour promoting her new book, “Hard Choices.”)
Selzer said that while Clinton’s scores are “down across the board, even with groups that have been her most ardent supporters,” the slide “doesn’t appear to have affected her electability, for now.” In head-to-head contests, Clinton led potential Republican candidate Chris Christie by seven points, and was nine points in front of Rand Paul and Jeb Bush.
The poll’s issues questions found voters more satisfied with their own finances and careers, but less confident in where the country is headed. A majority (55 percent) said they are moving closer to achieving financial and career goals, while only half that number (26 percent) said the country is headed in the right direction.
In a Bloomberg story, Selzer explained the divergence by saying, “It’s as though Americans are living in an increasingly comfortable bubble, watching a world that appears to be increasingly troublesome.”
The data also shows that the health care overhaul continues to be a conundrum for many. While 53 percent oppose Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a similar majority (56 percent) now say it can be made to work with “small modifications,” according to the Bloomberg Poll. Only 10 percent would leave the act as is.
It does show, however, that Republican opposition has moderated somewhat. The percentage of Republicans who want the act abolished is down to 56 percent from a high of 67 percent in July 2010.
Finally, the Bloomberg Poll shows that a consensus is forming around climate change, with a nearly 2-to-1 margin (62 percent to 33 percent) saying they would pay more for energy if it would mean a reduction in pollution from carbon emissions.
Republicans were the least likely (46 percent) to say they would pay more for clean energy, while 82 percent of Democrats said they would, as did 60 percent of independents.
“It’s a rare poll where people responding will stand up and say ‘tax me,’” Selzer said.
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