Winning the Independent vote isn’t the only reason Barack Obama won the presidential election last year, but it is certainly one of the key factors. Indeed, he carried this important sub-group by eight points (52% Obama, 44% McCain), and until recently Independents have been staunch supporters of the president.

However, our recent NBC/WSJ poll* shows Independents may be experiencing some buyers’ remorse on their 2008 vote decision. Among the 26% of respondents who consider themselves strictly independent or identify with some other party than Republicans or Democrats, the president’s key ratings have dropped considerably since April.

First, consider the standard measure of job approval. In April, Independents gave President Obama a two-to-one approval rating (60% approve, 31% disapprove). In June, this has become a split decision with 46% saying they approve and 44% saying they disapprove of the job Obama is doing.

Next, consider the president’s personal ratings – an area where Obama has received extraordinarily high marks from various sub-groups over the past few months. In April 63% of Independents had a positive opinion of the President while 23% had a negative opinion. By mid-June that rating had dropped to 49% positive, 35% negative.

This shift among Independents seems to be coming from a variety of sources:

  • A sizeable proportion (42%) perceive the president as taking on too many issues and not focused enough on the most important ones;
  • Just 33% say they feel “extremely” or “quite” confident Obama has the right set of goals and policies to improve the economy, (compared to 45% overall); and,
  • Majorities say they oppose the President’s recent decisions to provide financial aid to GM (62%), to order the closure of Guantanamo Bay (61%), and eliminate procedures such as waterboarding to get information from terrorists (52%).

This data would suggest the more Independents learn about Obama and his policies the less they like what they see, thereby creating an obvious opportunity for Republicans. And, here’s the good news – Republicans are already focused on what Independents care about most. After job creation and economic growth (55%), this important voter bloc wants the deficit and government spending to be addressed (42%). Republicans need to keep holding the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress accountable for their spending, and offering alternative solutions for Americans.

*National survey of 1,008 adults conducted June 12-15, 2009
(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)



Public Opinion Strategies