State of the Union

Obama's approval of the American public slips to an all-time low.


President Obama's approval rating of the American public has fallen to an all-time low, according to a new Gallup survey of White House residents and employees.

Fewer than one in 10 Americans earned the president's favor, according to the president. That is down sharply from six in 10—the percentage of Americans Obama approved of shortly after his election in November 2008, and the lowest level yet for his administration.

"They're not doing a very good job, frankly," said the president. "Most of them, I mean. Some are. But not many."
Obama's job approval for how Americans are performing has fallen in every category, from the economy to health care and the environment.

Americans get their highest marks for their handling of national security and emergency preparedness. The killing of Osama bin Laden marked a rare bright spot for the public, and their support for the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya showed most people have a strong grasp of foreign policy, the survey of Oval Officeholders showed.

Americans also have handled the recent earthquake on the East Coast and Hurricane Irene well, with more than two-thirds of them taking the disasters in stride, according to officials inside the White House.

But otherwise, the government feels the public is falling down on the job. The administration strongly approves of only 9 percent of Americans, while 47 percent are strongly disapproved of. Another 28 percent are somewhat disapproved of, and the White House somewhat approves of the remaining 16 percent.

"What these numbers show, I think, is that the president has become increasingly disillusioned with the American public," said Trevor Gopnik, a professor of political science at Georgetown University.

"He's completely disgusted," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "Which shouldn't be all that surprising, given the state of the economy, the high unemployment rate, and the fact that most Americans are, let's face it, fat lazy slobs. Go to a mall and look around if you don't believe me," said Carney.

The summer's debt-ceiling stalemate has contributed to the president's sour mood, observers say, as did the decision to cut short his vacation a day early even though many Americans are still enjoying theirs.

The survey of the West Wing also found:

  • Officials are still deeply concerned about high levels of household debt. While delinquency and foreclosure rates have fallen in recent months, per-capita debt load remains too high, holding back the recovery and stoking fears of a double-dip recession that would be blamed on Obama.
  • Americans eat too much and don't get enough exercise, says First Lady Michelle Obama — a view echoed by her husband's administration. "Today, we outline a vision for the nation that requires parents, neighborhoods, the medical community, employers, schools and individuals to take a coordinated and comprehensive approach to combating overweight and obesity," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last year.
  • The public doesn't pay enough taxes. There are "things we need to pay for as a country," the president stressed.
  • Americans also are lousy consumers, according a cross-tabulation of responses by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said recent regulation of light bulbs was a good thing because "we are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money."

Other results from the poll indicate that Americans are incapable of providing for their own medical care, insist on buying cars that are safe and comfortable instead of cars that get the highest gasoline mileage, smoke too much, harbor too many of the wrong attitudes, fail to volunteer at sufficient rates, are too greedy, do not separate their recyclables enough, and continue to cling to guns and religion despite being lectured to by their betters about the importance of doing otherwise.

Some analysts tried to find a silver lining in all those clouds.

Republican pollster Mark Nofziger noted that the U.S. is still 14 months away from the next presidential election. The critical period for the American people will not begin until after Labor Day, he said, when politicians begin competing in earnest to determine who will oversee them.

But Lyman Worrel, a historian of American politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, warned against too much optimism. "There's always a honeymoon period after any election," he cautioned. "But honeymoons don't last forever. I expect that the next president—whoever he or she is—will be disappointed by the American people, just like Obama has."

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.