A pair of influential pollsters now have support for the President under 50%. Rasmussen has 49% of voters at least somewhat approving of the President, with an Approval Index of -11 (which is really more a measure of passion, as the percentage of those who strongly disapprove from those who strongly approve). Some on the left discount Rasmussen as skewing rightward, but Zogby, seen by some as left-leaning, backs him up with an approval rating of 48%.
The President can’t point the finger at anyone but himself for the steep drop in support. The GOP haven’t really been making too much of a concerted push against him until recently, and he’s had the support of many in the media. The public is deeply uncomfortable with his propensity for spending and big government programs.
For a historical perspective, I took a quick glance at the Gallup approval ratings for the last several Presidents. Only Bill Clinton had a lower rating at such an early point in his Presidency. Granted, the polling firms are different, and Gallup still has the President at 56%, but during the last several elections Zogby and Rasmussen have seemed to be more on the money, including 2008 where both pollsters were closer to the actual result than Gallup.
The Gates controversy didn’t help, but it’s the declining economic performance coupled with intensified defense of the stimulus boondoggle and iced with a massive and murky health care reform bill that have caused Obama’s popularity to plummet. Will it force him to tack to the center? We’ll see, but Obama doesn’t seem to be the political pragmatist that Bill Clinton was.