Obama’s poll numbers are still better than George W. Bush’s throughout most of his presidency, and Gallup found that even now, a narrow majority of Americans believe the United States rates favorably “in the eyes of the world.”
But the president’s declining job performance numbers on foreign policy in NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys over the past few years is impossible to ignore. (See question No. 6 in the March 5-9 survey, here. It includes historical data.)
In May 2011, Obama’s net job approval as president was +11, while his job approval on handling the economy was a -21. But on his handling of foreign policy, the president’s job performance was a stunning +22 (57 percent approve/35 percent disapprove).
One year later, Obama’s net job approval was +2, while his job approval on his handling of the economy was -9. Once again, his job rating on foreign policy was measurably higher than both, with a net of +9 (51 percent approve/42 percent disapprove).
The same trend held in December of 2012 and April of 2013 NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, though the differences in Obama’s net job approval on his overall performance, the economy and foreign policy were narrowing.
This March, the president’s performance in all three areas was almost identical. In fact, an identical 41 percent of respondents approved of his performance in his overall job, his handling of the economy and his handling of foreign policy.
Obama’s net approval as president was -13, while his net approval in handling the economy was -15 and his handling of foreign policy was -12 (41 percent approve/53 percent disapprove).
Are voters increasingly unhappy with the president’s foreign policy actions, or is the public’s general dissatisfaction with Obama’s performance poisoning their view of his foreign policy performance?
It doesn’t really matter.
Public dissatisfaction with the president’s handling of foreign policy is another problem for Democrats who need to generate a strong base turnout and also convince swing voters that the president and his party deserve their support in November.
The less happy voters (particularly Democrats and Independents) are about the Obama presidency, the more difficult it will be for Democratic strategists to achieve the results they want in the midterm elections.