While I was gone for the latter part of last week (thanks for filling in on QMF, John!), two interesting polls came out and I couldn't let them go without mention on this site.
Both a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll and a Washington Post/ABC poll found that Obama is starting to have trouble among Democrats. While the Research 2000 poll compares with the past week, the WaPo/ABC poll compares with his approval ratings back in April. More details on the numbers after the jump.
Everyone I've read who's discussed it has been quick to lay the blame on the health care debate, and no doubt a significant part of liberals'/Democrats'/progressives'/lefties' frustration with Obama has a lot to do with health care. He hasn't been all that much of a leader on the issue, seems too willing to make concessions on the very popular public option, and, for all intents and purposes, doesn't seem all the invested in getting the best health care plan out there.
But one can't deny the other ways in which his agenda have fallen through. The stimulus wasn't big enough, but liberals were willing to look the other way since it was early. The cap and trade bill was eviscerated, but almost no one really cares about the environment (sorry, Al, but America's most famous environmentalist is actually Oprah, and she hands out cars with mediocre fuel efficiency by the hundreds). The Treasury and the Fed are still in the pockets of Wall Street, but then so is the media so no one's keeping up. He's defended the Bush line on civil liberties, but he's also made some progress in human rights protections.
And then there are the gays. I'm referring specifically to the gay men and women, generally of the center/liberal persuasion, who've been up in arms this past summer because Obama hasn't used his powers to stop-loss to suspend DADT discharges, hasn't asked Congress to do anything for us, and then there was that DOJ brief in Smelt. What percent of the drop in his approval rating from April do you think they are?
Here's more on the long-term trend followed by Research 2000:
Obama's approval rating has dropped from around 90 among Democrats at the end of April to 72. More on the details:
Looking at the raw numbers, the drop in Democratic support is even more notable:
Net Favorability Ratings For President Obama, By Party (Last Week in Parens)
DEMOCRATS: +72 (+78)
REPUBLICANS: - 86 (- 84)
INDEPENDENTS: +35 (+39)
As you can see, the needle barely moved among Republicans (with 6% favorability, there wasn't a whole lot of ground to concede). Independents moved, but it was Democrats that saw the sharpest drop.
And Greg Sargent has more on the deeper questions asked in the WaPo/ABC poll:
* The WaPo poll found that "49 percent now express confidence that Obama will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency."
On that question, among liberals, Obama has dropped a surprising 12 points, from 90% to 78%, in the same time period. Among Dems, he's dropped eight points, from 90% to 82%.
* The WaPo poll found that "forty-nine percent now say they think he will be able to spearhead significant improvements in the system, down nearly 20 percentage points from before he took office."
On that question, among Dems, Obama has fallen a surprising 11 points during that time period, from 90% to 79%. Among liberals it was even steeper: A drop of 13 points, from 84% to 71%. (This could also partly be a referendum on Congress, but it's still suggestive.)
I just don't think that those drops, which started in April, could have come from just the health care debate, since we weren't really even talking about health care back then. It's probably the general hopelessness for his whole agenda that people who voted for him based on his campaign promises are feeling, as well as the novelty of someone other than Bush being in office wearing off.
That said, the angriest and most vocal sector of the people who generally voted Obama has been LGB people (from what I've heard from transgender people and read on trans blogs, they really aren't sharing in the frustration LGB people are. Feel free to school me in the comments). Some of it's understandable - he really hasn't pushed for everything that he could, although it is still early in his presidency and health care has sucked all the air out of the room - while other parts of it aren't, and are most likely an emotional response to finding out both that, because of Prop 8, people don't like us (they really, really don't like us), and that getting someone other than Bush in office didn't solve all our problems.
I'd like to know more about how the polls break down, since not everyone who voted for Obama was a liberal. Besides people further to the left, there are also people who don't have much of a political ideology or follow politics all that much, as well as disillusioned conservatives who crossed over. Generally converts are the most vocal supporters of any institution, but partial converts with one foot out the door are the biggest whiners. They have little to no investment in Obama and liberal policy in general succeeding, they're legitimately conflicted, but they have the same gusto as converts to any ideology do. It's an interesting mix.
That's where quite a few LGB voters for Obama fall. Exit polls generally peg the LGB (trans people weren't included in CNN's exit poll question in either 2004 or 2008) vote for the Democratic candidate at around 70-75%, so let's be generous and call it three-quarters, while the country is divided about 50-50 any given presidential election.
To me, that means that about a quarter of LGB people who vote would vote Republican if they weren't LGB. That's a large segment of our population, and they cross-over for many reasons. Some is legitimate hope for policy change on LGB issues, some because they're sick of Republican homophobia. Some become invested in left-leaning politics, while most vote with the (subconscious or conscious) expectation that once this whole homophobia thing is over, they'll be able to go back to voting Republican. And some are just Republicans that vote Democratic only for queer issues or social issues generally, but will never bring themselves to give a fuck about something like, say, universal health care.
All of this is to say that we're a pretty special constituency when it comes to the Democratic coalition. Most other groups that vote generally Democratic - women, blacks, Jews - are in whatever category all their lives. LGB people, on the other hand, have plenty of formative moments and spend a whole lot of time developing a world-view before finding out and coming to terms with the fact that we're part of a disliked minority that the Democrats treat better than Republicans do.
Part of that political development never really leaves any of us. I'm a bit to the left of gaystream culture, but I'm not just gay, I'm latino, the child of a feminist and an anti-war quasi-hippie, college-educated, and a first-generation American. I'd imagine that LGB people raised in typically Republican demographics who cross-over later in life don't forget where they came from either.
That's a quarter of our population that voted for Obama with their hopes mainly on LGB issues. With his lack of movement on anything of substance, along with the mob mentality that emerged among the most vocal and well-connected gays, at least some of the drop in Obama's approval rating had to have come from our corner.
Which should make it easy for him to pick up a few points if he really wants them.