Pundits examining daily poll numbers to gauge the impact of current scandals on President Obama are missing a bigger trend. Even before recent revelations of misconduct by his Administration, Obama’s approval ratings have been declining throughout the year. On Monday, Rasmussen reported that 47% of likely voters approved of Obama’s handling of his job, while 51% disapproved. This is a massive 20 point negative swing since the first of the year.
At the end of 2012, 57% of voters approved of Obama, while just 41% disapproved. He garnered good will from voters following his reelection in November. Yet, in just 6 months, the post-reelection honeymoon is clearly over. His approval rating is even lower than President Bush as this point in his second term. In June 2005, 48% of voters approved of the job Bush was doing, while 47% disapproved. As fatigue over the Iraq war grew and conservatives felt alienated, Bush’s approval ratings plummeted into the 30s by the time his term was complete.
Obama’s approval ratings have remained steady because he has enjoyed the full support of his base. The current scandals engulfing his Administration, however, threaten that support. The expansive government spying revealed in the NSA leak is opposed by a considerable block of Obama’s core supporters. He had campaigned in 2008 against many Bush policies related to the global war on terror. Rather than reverse these policies, in many cases he has expanded them.
As the full extent of the government spying becomes clearer, it, along with the other scandals, will likely erode some of Obama’s base support. The recent data from Rasmussen makes it clear this base support is all he has left. If part of that goes, Obama won’t just share Bush’s policies, but his approval ratings as well.