Obama’s low approval rating matches Bush’s

New polls reflect growing discontent with politics in Washington as President Obama’s approval rate slipped in July, and the approval rating of Congress hit an all-time low.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday shows Congress hitting a record-low rating with only 12 percent of respondents saying they approve of the job Congress is doing, while 83 percent disapprove.

Gallup has Obama’s approval rating at 47 percent for the week ending July 21, identical to the approval of George W. Bush at the same time in his presidency. According to Gallup, Obama’s approval rating has been bouncing between 46 percent and 47 percent since the second week in June.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Obama getting a 45 percent approval rating for the survey period of July 17-21, down 3 percentage points from the previous month. That wasn’t Obama’s lowest: He hit 44 percent in November 2011.

A Quinnipiac poll a few weeks ago had Obama’s approval rating at 44 percent.

“These numbers aren’t terrible,” but they certainly aren’t terrific,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute.

Brown said presidential approval numbers get terrible “when they start with a 3.”

“The question is, is he going to bottom out as he did in his first term in this territory and build back up,” Brown said. “Or will he be more like other second-term presidents whose numbers have continued to decline?”

Brown said uneasiness about the economy is the big drag on Obama’s numbers. But he also cites recent controversies involving the IRS and National Security Agency as problems for the president’s popularity.

Fred Yang, of Hart Research Associates, a polling company that helped run the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, said when he drills into the numbers, he sees Obama’s slide as a “temporary bump downward.”

That’s because Obama’s numbers dipped primarily among Democrats, and especially African-Americans.

“The president’s numbers in 2013, from January until now, haven’t changed with independants and Republicans,” Yang said. “What changed in this recent poll was Democrats and African-Americans. I think those numbers are going to bounce back.”

Yang attributes that new dip among supporters largely to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida slaying of Trayvon Martin. The verdict was rendered July 13, four days before the survey.

When breaking down data concerning the three major racial-ethnic groups (whites, Hispanics and blacks) Yang said, attitudes haven’t changed among whites and Hispanics.

“It’s really the African-Americans who changed in how do they feel about the country, how do they feel about race relations, and how they feel about the president,” Yang said. “So clearly they are seeing and hearing things that whites and Hispanics aren’t.”

Obama’s eventual statement about the verdict, which came in the middle of the polling and cannot be accounted for, likely will help him with his base, Yang said.

“He’s been so strong for so long with Democrats and African-Americans, that I think this is a temporary bump downward.”

Yang, said the public is holding Congress mostly to blame for their disapproval of Washington.

“I think Congress is seen as the institution that just can’t get it done,” Yang said.

When asked what makes those polled most unhappy about federal government, the top reason chosen was “the partisanship and inability of Congress to get things done.”

More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents said that was their top pet peeve about government in Washington, and 44 percent put it in their top two.

“The thing that was interesting about our poll was that Democrats believe that, obviously. Independents believe that, and non-tea party Republicans believe that,” Yang said.

“The only group in that partisan mix who blames Obama or government more than Congress are the tea party Republicans.”

And it’s in that split, Yang said, that much of the partisan current political gridlock begins.

“I would argue in some respects what’s going on in Congress is that before Republicans can compromise with Democrats, they have to basically compromise with each other,” Yang said. “You have the two wings of the party who really are at war with each other.”

The poll found that less than a third (32 percent) of respondents said their representative deserves to be re-elected, while 57 percent said it was time to give a new candidate a chance.

And when asked if they could vote to replace every single member of Congress, 57 percent said they would.

But Brown said recent history — and partisan manipulation of the congressional districts — make that unlikely.

“Now maybe (next) year will be different,” Brown said. “But it’s not been the case. One of the things that redistricting has done on both sides is make incumbents secure. That leaves fewer districts in play.”

The poll respondents were evenly split (44-44 percent) as to whether the next Congress should be controlled by Republicans or Democrats.

Obama won’t be happy to hear that more people think his health care reform is a bad idea than a good idea. Forty-seven percent said they thought the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is a bad idea, while only 34 percent think it’s a good idea.

One the other hand, a majority (51 percent) of respondents said Republicans should stop trying to block the law, while 45 percent they should prevent the law from going into effect.

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