The national media has spent a great deal of time talking about Donald Trump and how Republicans are “unenthusiastic” toward the current field of GOP candidates for President.  (For some perspective, just 55% of Democrats had even heard of a young Arkansas Governor named Bill Clinton in April 1991*.  How “enthusiastic” could these voters have been when only 15% say they had a favorable impression of Clinton?)

The more important news story should be the significant decline in attitudes toward President Obama and his handling of both the economy and foreign affairs.  Americans are clearly disappointed with the President, and show their frustration by providing very low ratings on the direction of the nation, and on Obama’s job performance and re-election chances.

Last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll^ shows that Americans are more negative about the direction of the country now than they have been at any other time since Obama took office.  Pessimism is clearly driven by American opinions on the economy, as fully 39% view the economy getting worse – a 13 point increase since just last month.  And, this sentiment is taking a toll on the President as 57% of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the nation’s economy (his highest disapproval score on the economy ever recorded).

The New York Times/CBS News poll also sheds more light on the current debate in Washington over the federal budget deficit.  When it comes to handling the deficit, Americans strongly disapprove of both the President (59% disapproval) and Republicans in Congress (63% disapprove).  However, when it comes to making decisions about the deficit, Americans trust Republicans in Congress (44%) more so than President Obama (39%).  So, while more Americans approve of the President than Congressional Republicans on the issue, they do not trust the President more to make the right decisions.

Attitudes on the President’s management of international issues is also negative.  Current polling shows that without a real plan from the administration on how to move forward in Libya, voters’ attitudes have turned more cynical in just the past month.  First, more Americans than ever before disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign policy (was 47% approve-36% disapprove in March, now 39% approve-46% disapprove).  And, regarding Libya specifically, approval of Obama’s management of the situation there is inverted (39% approve-45% disapprove), while last month nearly a majority approved of the President’s handling of the situation (50% approve-29% disapprove).

As if the New York Times/CBS News data isn’t bad enough news for the President, there are even more troubling numbers for Obama in the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll# out last week.  In that survey, Obama’s approval rating has dropped seven points since January, and his disapproval score is among the highest he has ever received in the Washington Post survey.

Looking ahead to the 2012 election, just 28% of Americans would definitely vote to re-elect the President, with almost half (45%) saying they definitely would not.  Voters are seeking a different direction, and as the budget deficit debate fades, attention will return to the President’s (mis)handling of the economy and foreign affairs.  If current public polling is any indicator, that’s certainly not good news for Obama.  I’m assuming the media just hasn’t had enough time to write about how Americans are pretty “unenthusiastic” about the current field of Democratic incumbents for President.

*National survey of 1,005 adults conducted in April 1991 by Gallup.  Data included in this memo is among Democrats only.
^National survey of 1,224 adults conducted April 15-20, 2011 by The New York Times/CBS News
#National survey of 1,001 adults conducted April 14-17, 2011 by the Washington Post/ABC News

Public Opinion Strategies