Alex Blaze

How much of Obama's approval rating dip is because of the gays?

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 25, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: approval ratings, Barack Obama, bisexual, health care reform, lesbian, lgb, LGBT, policy, transgender

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)

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.

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I don't think the drop has anything to do with queers. The public are focused on other issues now.

Obama's first and worst mistake was backing away from the fiscally responsible, targetted stimulus of Clintonomics, which he promised, and giving us this Keynesian blubber fest instead. By expanding the debt, he thus showered the repubs with political capital at a time when we need every scrap to put in healthcare.

But all the blame doesn't go to the Pres. The democratic base let him do it. They probably didn't remember that major promise, just like they barely noticed the Clintons' successes.

It's the same story. The public are hopeless dingbats lead around by the sleazoid pundits of commercial media.

That aside, we could turn it around on healthcare if liberal money would kick in for an ad campaign to counter repub lies. Chances are they won't.

Alex, it appears to me that you are looking for a conclusion without sufficient data. Beyond that, you can speculate this and speculate that, but as far as coming up with anything valid, we might as well be arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

If we want to know what portion of the popularity drop is due to disappointment/frustration among LGBT voters, then we need a polling survey, or at least a few good questions included within a larger survey, designed to detect that specific effect.

And the fact that there is no polling group out there conducting such a survey or asking any such questions (yet) --- that fact alone tells us something: there may be a bit of talk in the mainstream about LGBT disaffection, but no one considers it important enough to study. In other words, we are occasionally good fodder for dead airspace yada-yada-pundit-yak, but otherwise we are hardly on anyone's radar screen. Maybe not even inside the White House.

I am not 100% happy with President Obama. That said, hell will freeze over before I will ever vote for a Republican. And I wonder how people would respond to a poll if they were asked if they wished they had voted for McCain/Palin instead of Obama/Biden. I don't think people are happy (mostly because of the economy which can't be fixed fast enough) but I don't think they would now prefer to have John McCain as president. Obama's poll fluctuations don't indicate that Democrats are suddenly becoming right-wing Republicans.

It's hard for me to be too mad at the moment--we're still less than a year in, and at least there's been some signs of things getting taken care of. 100% happy? No, but I've not been particularly angered yet.

I think it's impossible to say, or even make a good guess. Either way, Michelangelo Signorile just did an excellent post reminding us why we have to make this October march on DC a priority.

The drop is largely the elderly.
Gallup has good numbers on it.

Yup, my bet's on the elderly as well. They're a rather fickle crowd, especially with death panel lies and financial scare tactics.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 26, 2009 9:01 AM

My bet is not on the elderly, but on people who have memories...And since our editor used the word first, Who the FUCK are either of you to stereotype "elderly" persons? And where does elderly begin in your pea sized minds? Please also cite any source other than your prejudice.

Firstly, take a moment and celebrate the life of Ted Kennedy who had worked for universal health care since 1980. Now, think about how easy it must be to obtain. None of this is easy, and all of you are spoiled.

OBAMA'S DROP HAS TO DO WITH INCREASING UNEMPLOYMENT. Period, done, end, nothing else we are not even a pimple on his popularity rating.

(Or as Prime minister Benjamin Disraeli said to young Queen Victoria: "I regret to say your majesty that my government will be voted out of office next Fall. There has been a drought and the electorate will not countenance a man who cannot control the weather")

That Blaze is Parallel opposed to picking an item and putting "for dummies" after it.

If Obama is going to run on the edges and govern from the middle he is hardly the first of either party. Already he is strengthening his "defense" portfolio to my personal dismay, but who notices that when "American Idol" takes everyone"s time?

Congress is so unpopular with the electorate that there are doubtless many Democrats secretly hoping for a curb to the prospect of super executive branch. You see we just had seven years of that and no one liked it. Congress can be miracle workers at obfuscation when they put their collective minds to it.

Politics remain as politics have been.

I doubt it has much to do with unemployment. Yeah, it's going up, but who's blaming Obama for it? Although it could just be another group of people (the less-than-fully employed) who thought that voting for him would turn everything around. It didn't. The stimulus wasn't big enough and the economy will eventually turn itself around as it sets itself up for another fall in 10 years.

Oh, well. I think that tehre are many reasons, since I've noticed those on the left, gay or straight, are getting mad at him.

Andrew Conte | August 26, 2009 9:40 AM

Two words: Third party

Even if you could quantify it Alex, it would be split along racial lines.

It's a fact that the gay people pissed at Obama and that have been even BEFORE he took office have been predominately white.

If you poll Black or Latino/a gays, there will probably be a diametrically opposed reaction to the one of white gay people and they would cancel each other out.

I'm sure there would be differences along racial lines, as well. Although I was looking more at the change since April, which would take into account the noisy anti-Obama white gay crowd's attitudes from before he got in office.

Personally, I'm teetering. I'm holding off to see what happens on health care, and after that....

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 27, 2009 12:21 PM

Personally, I'm teetering. I'm holding off to see what happens on health care, and after that....

I'm sure that the civilians and GIs dying in Afghanistan and Iraq will appreciate your qualms.

And so will patients at Humana when they're told "Hold your horses. Your biopsy is scheduled for three months from now. What can happen in three months?" And so will the huge new wave of people being foreclosed because they're unemployed. They’ll all be so glad that you’re having second thoughts.

Maybe you can just call the election board and tell them you've changed your mind and that you want your vote back. It might work.

But if not we’re stuck for at least 3 more years with this homohating, racist warlord you campaigned so long and hard for.

>Robert Ganshorn
>Who to stereotype "elderly" persons?
>Please also cite any source other than your >prejudice.

Nice try Robert.
Sure I'll cite my source, Gallup polling data.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 26, 2009 9:46 PM

I assume you have had graduate level courses in statistics? If you haven't try and keep up. I'll go slow and use small words.

Elders never supported Obama in a majority, a given, but to senior bash and think everyone will buy it is stereotyping nonetheless.

Firstly a drop from 48% approval to 43% approval with a margin of error +-2% does not impress me. a five point drop with a two percent margin of error?

Polls are only a snapshot of an hour's attitude in a day, week, or month of perceptions. I maintain it is:

Employment because many elders still work and have children who do as well. It is still 90% jobs.

Health care remains unexplained in a cogent manner to the full electorate. It must be distilled into something understandable beyond what it is not. (Canadian, British, French)

The national debt is a frightening thing to these elders (and many others) who grew up listening to stories of the great depression and who often suffer disproportionately in inflationary times.

It is logical to expect that the first president of his generation, who inspired so many who placed unrealistic expectations on him, suffers from a hangover once all the tasks of governing befall him.

Gallup's break-down certainly is different from the other polling bodies, when you go down to the numbers by party/political ideology. His approval rating among dems is much higher there than in either the wapo's or research 2k's numbers.

Thanks for the link! I guess we'll have to wait and see where the outlier is in all these polls.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 26, 2009 3:02 PM

Speculation about Obama's drop in the polls is often just wishful thinking, like Alex’s plaintive ending, “Which should make it easy for him to pick up a few points if he really wants them” by abandoning his homohating bigotry. Fat chance.

The fact is that Obama's slide in the polls is based on the fact that he's a centrist at a time when the public are breaking sharply to the right and the left. In times like these people dismiss fence sitters.

He won't end the mass murder in Afghanistan and Iraq where the US and its puppet regimes are murdering civilians in increasingly large numbers. He won’t end kidnapping, torture and murder but he is ‘reassigning’ it because the CIA, as usual, is tainted with blood.

He continues to write welfare checks for predatory lenders and looter capitalists while unemployment and crippling deficits grow and grow.

His frosty attitude of benign neglect for the GLBT communities, minority communities and labor has turned to open hostility and contempt.

He’s trying to bust the UAW.

He no crash program for long term unemployment insurance, housing, university education or medical care for minority and other workers, and has no plans for trillions in grants to states to provide welfare on a scale not needed since the last depression.

In terms of the GLBT communities his homohating is getting worse and all the medals, good intentions and Easter Egg hunts in the world can’t hid that.

In the face of a few rightists bullies organized by Rupert Murdoch Obama is in head-over-heels, cowardly, tail between his legs retreat on health care. He refuses to tie himself down to specifics because he met with PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin 4 times, with Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans 4 times, with Richard Umbdenstock, President and CEO of the American Hospital Association 7 times and with the AMAs President Dr. James Rohack 3 times.

Obama, mimicking Cheney and Bush, refuses to comment on what he gave away and what he got paid for it.

Obama's latest and most revolting sell-out is his openly racist decision to deny health care to immigrant and imported workers which puts everyone at risk. Denying health care to such a huge segment of the working population is a disaster waiting to happen. Infectious diseases are notoriously apolitical and opportunistic.

Until recently I thought the idea of a one term Obama presidency unlikely. Now I’m not so sure.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 27, 2009 6:38 AM

Bill, there are many spot on points to what you have made, but can we first get some form of national health care for American citizens before we crucify it on the altar of covering illegal residents?

Now on the one hand you wish to protect the worker, which is commendable as long as there is fairness both to competition in the world and opportunities for the individual. I can cite Germany as an example where workers get wonderful benefits and little advancement. The message is to stay in one's place and be productive.

The illegal workers/residents are a prime example of what we should have solved using our military to secure our domestic borders. Your observation of our southern border is important with the spread of H1N1 as a starter and an argument I use with crusty conservatives is that disease does not care about income, politics, gender or race.

If I may put it into your jargon: If America did a better job of securing our borders good union members would not have to face "scab" employees in as many numbers weakening our unions.

Would that be to your liking?

Chitown Kev | August 26, 2009 6:20 PM

Thanks Geena for the link.

Here's a link for the demographics in that poll. The poll dip is pretty broad based, actually.

The poll indicates that there has been a 10% dip in Obama's popularity with the Latino community and a 5% dip with the black community in the past 2 weeks (the dip with the black community isn't a surprise at all).

Also note the drop in #s from those who attend church on a weekly basis

Actually, Obama's #s in the white community steady.

The approvals in ethnic minority communities are still high but not as high.

I think the gays are a very, very small factor in all of this.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 27, 2009 6:18 AM

Agreed, we are a negligible factor. But this poll drop maintains a +-2% margin of error and is unimpressive because seniors never supported Obama in the majority anyway.

Chitown Kev | August 27, 2009 2:03 PM


It wasn't the seniors or even whites that jumped out at me. It was the 7% drop among all "non-white" people, a 10% from the highs for Latinos and a 5% drop in black Americans support, all in the past 2 weeks that I noticed. Even though ethnic minority support for Obama is still high, relatively speaking, it's not as high and with the 2% MoE it's significant.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 27, 2009 12:04 PM

Alex's statement that "I doubt it has much to do with unemployment. Yeah, it's going up, but who's blaming Obama for it?’ isn’t reality based.

Many blame him now for giving money to the looter rich and none to states for unemployment. When unemployment benefits run out for millions that will change to a period of despair followed by rage, repeating events from 1929 until the year of the general strikes, 1933.

"Illegal", as used to describe imported and immigrant workers has become a racist term. Immigrant and imported workers are not scabs. The opposite is true. According to the AFL-CIO union membership of immigrant and imported workers has risen 30% in the last decade and continues to climb in mining, meat packing and the hotel and restaurant trade. Most of the growth and much of the renewed militancy of the union movement flows from the recruitment of immigrant and imported workers by the UCFW, SEIU, HERE, Teamsters and the UMW.

Because of the rancid racism of Obama's denial of health care to this huge sector of the workforce, his polling numbers among immigrants and the Latino/a community are guaranteed to slip. Those communities learned early on that Bush, for all his lies, was betraying them and they'll draw the same lessons about Obama’s racism that we’ve drawn about his homohating bigotry and that African Americans, among others, will draw from his 'benign neglect' and austerity programs for working class communities.

Obama, like Clinton and Bush before him, is an unmitigated disaster for working people.

And as ususal Bill, you have the same flaw in your logic as many of his critics.

The man has only been in office seven months. That's not enough time to make sweeping generalizations as to what type of president he is going to be.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 27, 2009 5:56 PM

“And as ususal Bill, you have the same flaw in your logic as many of his critics.” And which critics are those, Roberts? Care to go into a bit more detail?

When I criticized Obama for being an agent of the christian right and associating with bigoted scum like Donnie McClurkin you said I was a Republican. (1) Ludicrous is the kindest word for that. You repeated that same clumsy fiction when I criticized him for being in bed with Rick Warren, speaking at this bigot fest, and giving (2) Warren’s southern baptists, catholics, and mormons the torpedo they used to sink same sex marriage in California and inviting Warren to speak before billions at the Inaugural. We know Obama’s a homohater because his DoJ (3) used vile language to Defend Clintons DOMA, because refuses to act on DADT (4) and has a council of christer ‘spirit’ (5) advisors. To say nothing of his appointment of Josh Dubois, his lead man in lining up the McClurkin bigot fest to head his campaigna to get the christers vote and then to run the billion dollar bribery scheme at the White House Office of “Faith-Based” and Neighborhood Partnerships.

BTW, the Donnie McClurkin bigot fests began on October 22, 2007 so we have almost 2 years of history on Obama’s homohating, not the seven months that even you admit too.

We know Obama’s a racist because he's pursuing a racist war in South Asia that involves the mass murder of civilians in Afghanistan and a continuation of the war of genocide in Iraq. It combines outright colonialism and racism as covers to steal oil and petroleum resources. And we know he’s a racist because he denies health care to health care to immigrant and imported workers because they’re Latino/a.

We know Obama’s anti-union and anti-worker because he successfully bullied the UAW misleadership into giving up the basics of their contract and strong armed (6) them into accepting managements deep cuts in pay and benefits; because he gives trillions in welfare to the looter rich and refuses to call for massive aid to states crumbling under the weight of an unemployment crisis not seen since the (7) Great Depression and because he opposes socialized medicine while accepting millions in ‘contributions’ from the same owners and managers of HMO’s and etc.

So now you have a choice. Prove I’m wrong with facts, data and citations or continue to defend your rightwing icon by saying that his critics are Republicans, instead of telling the truth. Obama is a Republican in drag, r is tied to the religious right, a warlord and a hand puppet for big business.

(1) NY Times “Mr. McClurkin, a black preacher who sang at the Republican National Convention in 2004, has gained notoriety for his view that homosexuality is a choice and can be “cured” through prayer, a view ridiculed by gay people.”

Actually the Gallup data you cite show Obama losing more ground among the young than among the elderly. For the 5-week period studied, Obama's popularity in the 18-29 age bracket dropped from 71 percent to 60 percent. Among the 65+ seniors, it dropped from 49 to 43 percent, and this was before the Town Hall circuses began. Younger people are getting discouraged about the economy, the foreclosures, bankers' bonuses, rising college costs and endless casualties in Iraq/Afghanistan. I doubt gay issues per se account for more than 1 or 2 percentage points of movement in the polls.

I think that our hopes for this presidency are being smashed because the template for success on all issues was dismissed.

The template for broad success of Obama's Term was to Bluntly, and at high immediate cost, put an end to the housing crisis. This would involve major bank losses, broad principle reductions for anybody underwater, easy refi for all, including those that would no longer qualify for a loan on their home, and a huge taxpayer kick-in.

This is and was the only way to stop the economic bleeding, bottom out the housing market, and start the unemployment figures to start going lower.

Obama needed to begin on this platform, no matter what was said to his voters prior to the election. Within a year of making these sweeping changes that would affect most every American directly or peripherally, Obama would have been seen by most as an American HERO, let alone a competent President.

Once this much goodwill was established with the people, Obama's other agenda items would have by and large all been slam dunks, including many LGB issues.

Instead Obama has taken his checklist and tossed the issues into a hat, pulling them out seemingly at random. Ha has also burned alot of his Honeymoon collateral by making TV show and magazine cover appearance ad nauseam. This while the rest of the country is battling a deep recession, and wondering why he isn't more focused and helping us with our urgent needs.

In my opinion Obama has pissed away the biggest opportunity of the Century, and likely caused a setback to his Party and his Race that will linger for much longer than it should.

There is still time for Obama to right his ship. He's less than a year in, and could get back on track now. I fear though that Obama has a much different view of how he should go forward, and his path will continue to take him down a road of deterioration for both his popularity and the Country's well being. I am sorrowed.