Politics

Obama Approval Slipping Among Liberal Democrats

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Approval rating among this group dips below 80% for first time

PRINCETON, NJ -- Liberal Democrats remain strong supporters of President Obama, but their approval of the job he is doing has fallen noticeably since the midterm elections. For the first time, it dropped below 80% in the week after the announcement of the tax deal he brokered with congressional Republicans.

Job Approval Rating for President Obama Among Liberal Democrats, Recent Gallup Weekly Averages

These results are based on weekly averages of Gallup Daily tracking, including interviews with more than 3,000 U.S. adults each week, and approximately 500 interviews with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who describe their political views as liberal.

The Gallup data indicate that Obama's support among liberal Democrats was starting to decline even before he reached the tax deal. He averaged 88% approval among this group the last full week before the midterm elections (Oct. 25-31) and 83% the first three full weeks (Nov. 8-28) after his party suffered major losses in those elections, and then dipped below 80% the week after the announcement of the tax deal on Monday, Dec. 6.

Democrats in Congress largely opposed the deal, mainly for extending the 2001 and 2003 income tax cuts for wealthy Americans and for its revisions to the estate tax. Those revisions included higher limits than Democrats wanted on the amount of inheritances exempt from taxes and lower tax rates on the portion of inheritances that are subject to taxes.

Liberal Democrats have been Obama's most consistent supporters throughout his presidency, averaging 89% approval since he took office. That compares with an 82% average approval rating among moderate Democrats and a 75% average among conservative Democrats during his tenure in office.

Obama's overall approval rating has been relatively stable in recent weeks, narrowly ranging between 44% and 46% since the elections.

Compared with mid-November, when Obama had a 46% average among all Americans, his support has dropped most among liberal and conservative Democrats, with other party and ideological groups showing only minor movement.

Among the broader party groups, the decline has been confined mostly to Democrats, and among the broader ideology groups, mostly to liberals.

Changes in Barack Obama's Presidential Job Approval Rating, Mid-November to December 2010, Among All Americans and Party and Ideology Groups

Implications

Some liberal Democrats may have become disillusioned with President Obama's actions in recent weeks, but that is clearly the minority of the group. Liberal Democrats on the whole continue to give him his greatest support among party and ideological groups, with nearly 8 in 10 approving of his job performance even after the tax deal. A key to his future political fortunes will be whether he is able to win back those disillusioned liberals, who in general probably support most of what he has accomplished or tried to accomplish as president. At the same time, he faces a very different political environment over the next two years, with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate. These may force him to govern more toward the right of the ideological spectrum than he has to date.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Dec. 6-12, 2010, with a random sample of 3,089 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Sample sizes and margins of error for party and ideological groups are as follows:

Sample Sizes for Party Identification/Ideology Groups, Mid-November and Early December 2010 Weekly Polling

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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