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AP poll: Support for Obama, Dems slips

by Liz Sidoti
| April 15, 2010 9:00 PM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's national standing has slipped to a new low after his victory on the historic health care overhaul, even in the face of growing signs of economic revival, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey shows the political terrain growing rockier for Obama and congressional Democrats heading into midterm elections, boosting Republican hopes for a return to power this fall.

Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Obama's doing overall, and less than that - 44 percent - like the way he's handled health care and the economy. Last September, Obama hit a low of 50 percent in job approval before ticking a bit higher. His high-water mark as president was 67 percent in February of last year, just after he took office.

The news is worse for other Democrats. For the first time this year, about as many Americans approve of congressional Republicans as Democrats - 38 percent to 41 percent - and neither has an edge when it comes to the party voters want controlling Congress. Democrats also have lost their advantage on the economy; people now trust both parties equally on that, another first in 2010.

Roughly half want to fire their own congressman.

Adding to Democratic woes, people have grown increasingly opposed to the health care overhaul in the weeks since it became law; 50 percent now oppose it, the most negative measure all year. People also have a dim view of the economy though employers have begun to add jobs, including 162,000 in March. Just as many people rated the economy poor this month - 76 percent - as did last July.

And it could get worse for Democrats: One-third of those surveyed consider themselves tea party supporters, and three-quarters of those people are overwhelmingly Republicans or right-leaning independents. That means they are more likely to vote with the GOP in this fall's midterms, when energized base voters will be crucial amid the typical low turnout of a non-presidential election year.

Just listen to independent voters who typically decide elections.

"He's moving the country into a socialized country," Jim Fall, 73, of Wrightwood, Calif., said of the president. He worries that Obama is too "radical left wing" and that government has grown too big, saying: "He is constantly in our lives more and more and more and more."

In Spokane, Wash., Angela Hardin, 43, was just as disapproving.

"I don't like what's going on," the small business owner said. "He is just making a huge mess out of everything. ... He's all over the map. It's like, 'Slow down! Breathe! Think!'"

As for Democrats in Congress, she said: "I'm not happy with them." Republicans, she said, may be better. But she's really ambivalent toward any of them: "It's just beyond me how they can sit up there with all of their college degrees and fight like they were in middle school."

The new poll findings also show:

• Equal percentages of Democrats - 87 percent - approve of Obama's job performance as Republicans - 88 percent - disapprove. Independents are about split, 50 percent disapprove to 47 percent approve. And, when it comes to Congress, 91 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and even 51 percent of Democrats disapprove.

• The tea party coalition remains fuzzy to most people; only 16 percent say they know a great deal or a lot about this political phenomenon born a year ago.

Obama remains a polarizing figure, as does Congress.

"He's trying to do what he said we was going to do," said David Jeter of Los Angeles, 51, who votes Democratic and co-owns a lighting business. Jeter credits Congress with passing health care but wonders: "Now what will they do? ... I watch Congress with bated breath, but I don't expect that anything is going to radically alter my life."

A New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday found that an overwhelming majority of tea party supporters believe Obama doesn't share the values of most Americans or understand the problems of people like them.

The poll found that people who identify themselves as tea party backers - nearly one in five Americans - are wealthier and better educated than the general public and tend to be white, male, married and older than 45. They tend to be Republican, but more conservative than Republicans in general, the poll found. They tend to see Obama as "very liberal" and are "angry" rather than merely dissatisfied with Washington.

Though former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin draws raucous cheers at tea party rallies, a plurality of tea party supporters see her as unqualified to be president, according to the poll.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted April 7-12, 2010 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media. It involved interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide on both landline and cellular telephones. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The Times/CBS News poll was conducted April 5-12. Its margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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