February 2009 should have been the lowest possible point for the Republican Party. President Obama had just become the 44th president of the United States with the largest majorities in both houses of Congress that any president had enjoyed in generations.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that month found that 26 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the GOP, while 47 percent didn’t. The latest version of the same poll finds that 24 percent see the party positively, and 47 percent negatively.
This isn’t even the GOP’s lowest point in the poll. That came in late October of last year, immediately after the government shutdown, when only 22 percent had a positive opinion compared to 53 percent negative.
Republicans began the first year of President Obama’s second term with about 33 percent seeing the party positively in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The peak was 38 percent, just before the government shutdown.
In an aggregate of polls tracking the GOP’s favorability, the trend is even more obvious. The party’s favorable ratings, which were already underwater, took a dip as the government shutdown neared — that’s when they nosedived, and haven’t recovered since.
You can call it a gift from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to the Republican Party.
The GOP’s shutdown disaster was neatly followed by the lowest point in the Obamacare rollout, which severely nipped President Obama’s approval ratings. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had the president at 52 percent positive/37 percent negative as he began 2012. This month it is at 42 percent positive with 44 percent negative, which is an improvement from the last few months, and far better than the GOP — but still nothing much to brag about.
However, there are good numbers for the president in the new poll, besides a reverse in the trend in his popularity.
Most Americans, 51 percent, think he has a clear agenda — and they largely agree with him on it. More than 9 out of 10 say creating jobs is a priority this year, which is followed by 74 percent who prioritize deficit reduction. Given that most Americans are unaware that the deficit was cut by 37 percent last year and will fall even further this year, they’re in for a happy surprise.
Majorities also say that ensuring all children have pre-kindergaten education, addressing Iran’s nuclear program, closing corporate tax loopholes, withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan, reforming Social Security and Medicare and increasing the minimum wage are all priorities.
Most encouragingly, even after the rocky start, 54 percent say they want to “keep and fix the new health law.”
Just a month ago, 2014 seemed as if it could be another 2010-like disaster for the Democratic Party, as it trailed in the generic congressional ballot in a year where historically, the president’s party gets routed. Republicans now trail Democrats by 2 percent in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and 3.3 percent in an aggregate of recent polls.
As the president’s numbers recover, and his agenda gets the spotlight in the State of the Union address, he has an opportunity to reshape the political conversation in his favor.
Photo: jbouie via Flickr