By David Lauter
Tribune Washington Bureau
President Barack Obama’s second-term approval ratings continue to slide, with a majority now disapproving of his job performance, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Obama’s slide parallels that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose ratings also dropped steadily during his second term, although Obama’s 41 percent approval at this point - one year after his election - stands slightly higher than Bush’s 36 percent. By contrast, Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan maintained a relatively high level of popularity in their fifth years in office.
The president’s job approval numbers hit a high point in December and have slid steadily since then, with 41 percent now approving of his performance in office and 53 percent disapproving, the new survey shows. He has lost ground across the board, including among fellow Democrats. Although his approval in his party still stands at a healthy 78 percent, that represents a drop of 10 percentage points over the past year.
Among self-described independents, approval of Obama has dropped faster and further, with only 32 percent saying they approve of his job performance, down from 53 percent in December 2012.
As has been true almost throughout Obama’s presidency, the numbers divide sharply by race. In the latest survey, whites disapproved of Obama’s performance by 2-1, while blacks support him overwhelmingly, 82 perccent to 12 percent. Latinos also approve by a large, 60 percent to 32 percent, majority. At the beginning of the year, whites were more closely divided while Latinos approved of Obama’s job performance 78 percent to 15 percent.
On specific issues, the sharpest drop in Obama’s approval ratings comes in his handling of health care. Amid the botched rollout of his signature health care law’s website, only 37 percent approve of his handling of the issue, the new survey shows, while 59 percent disapprove. At the beginning of the year, the public divided evenly on how Obama was dealing with health care.
But perhaps of greater concern to the White House, only 31 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy, which remains the most important topic in the minds of most Americans. Disapproval on that topic stands at 65 percent.
Obama also gets a sharply negative rating on his handling of immigration, with 32 percent approving and 60 percent disapproving. His efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation have stalled in Congress, disappointing supporters.
The only bright spot in his ratings come on dealing with the threat of terrorism, where 51 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. By contrast, only 34 percent approve of his overall handling of foreign policy, with 56 percent disapproving.
The survey was conducted by telephone Oct. 30-Nov. 6 among a national sample of 2,003 adults, 18 years of age or older. The margin of error of the total sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.