President Obama's approval ratings have been stuck in the low-to-mid 40s for a good long while now, and while the breakneck pace at which Democrats ran away from the president during this year's midterm campaigns didn't help, a new poll from Bloomberg News may offer another clue to Obama's persistent public approval woes. On several key issues, Americans have a completely false understanding of the president's performance.
The president's decision to take executive action on immigration is one of the hot polling topics these days, with some fascinating and complicated results in its own right. In a result that's fairly consistent across several polls, 41% of Americans told Gallup they approve of the president's actions, while 51% disapproved. Within that result, though, almost all of the opposition is among white Republicans and so-called independents. Gallup also cross-tabbed the results by race, ethnicity, and party, and found that Obama's immigration actions were favored by black voters at 68%, Hispanic voters at 64%, and Democrats overall by 70%. For Hispanic voters born in the U.S., that approval fell to 51%. Gallup's headline? "U.S. Hispanics Back Obama Immigration Actions."
In the Bloomberg poll, 39% approved of the president's decision, while 56% disapproved. Bloomberg didn't provide crosstabs, but keeping in mind the Gallup result, which found almost all of the opposition concentrated among white Republicans and independents, check out this result:
On immigration, do you think the Obama administration has sent more or fewer undocumented immigrants back
to their home countries, compared to ten years ago?
18% Not sure
Now, it is hard to tell what impact having the correct information would have on the president's approval ratings, but it's fair to say that it would have some impact. More than half of the country thinks Obama was already taking it easy on undocumented immigrants, when the exact opposite is true.
On the economy, which voters consistently rank as their most important voting issue, the Bloomberg poll had an even more lopsided result:
A quick question about the deficit—which is the difference between what the federal government spends and
what it takes in in taxes and other revenue each year. Over the last six years, do you think the deficit has been
getting bigger or smaller?
6% Not sure
The U.S. Treasury recently announced the budget deficit for fiscal year 2014 finished at $483 billion, which is, indeed, less than the $1.4 trillion deficit from the 2009 financial collapse, but also less than every successive year of lower deficits during the Obama presidency:
2009 $1413 Billion Deficit
2010 $1294 Billion Deficit
2011 $1299 Billion Deficit
2012 $1100 Billion Deficit
2013 $680 Billion Deficit
2014 $492 Billion Deficit
It's tempting to agree with Jonathan Gruber that maybe Americans (or lots of them) are just stupid, and surely, a lot of them are, but results like these bespeak a greater failure. If Americans are failing to be informed about crucial issues, then someone else is also failing to inform them. There's this conventional wisdom in the Beltway media that Obama just isn't great at tooting his own horn, particularly with regard to the economy. That might explain something like an overall lag in approval or energy among his supporters, but Obama clearly isn't lying to Americans about these two verifiable issues. That means someone is lying to them, and no one else is telling them the truth loudly enough, or frequently enough.