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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 5

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 5

Subject:

Obama's Public Opinion Dilemma

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Date:

Mon, 29 Aug 2011 02:24:03 -0400

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Obama's Public Opinion Dilemma
Jonathan Chait
The New Republic
August 26, 2011
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/94250/obamas-public-opinion-dilemma

Pew's monster public opinion survey really captures the
complexity of the political dilemma facing President
Obama. You have a public extremely unhappy with
everything, blaming Republicans more than Democrats, but
with President Obama finding his popularity sucked down
along with everybody else. He remains relatively quite
popular, both compared to others and adjusted for
circumstances, but absolutely pretty unpopular.

In particular, the impression that has taken shape is of
a reasonable, well-intentioned man with the country's
best interests at heart but not necessarily able to
enact change. Here's the positive side of that:

    Majorities say he stands up for what he believes in
    (71%), cares about people like them (63%), and most
    view him as a good communicator (75%), well-informed
    (63%) and trustworthy (59%). Public assessments of
    these traits are relatively unchanged in recent
    months.

And here's the negative side:

    But evaluations of Obama's leadership have dropped
    off in recent months. Today, the public is divided
    over whether Obama is a strong leader (49% strong
    leader, 47% not a strong leader), and more now say
    he is not able to get things done than say he is
    (50% not able, 44% able).

It's not as easy as you might think to shore up the
liability side of that ledger without losing the asset
side. Obama is viewed as well-informed, trustworthy and
caring in large part because he takes such care to be
reasonable. He could gain more strength, but possibly at
the risk of those other attributes.

That said, he needs to make some version of this trade.
The public has shifted toward the view that Obama must
do more to confront Republicans. This is the most
interesting finding:

More Now Say Obama Should Challenge Republicans

                                  Apr   Aug  Change
                                  2011  2011 
                                  %     %
Obama should . . .
Go along with GOP more often      29    25   -4
Challenge GOP more often          27    37   +10
Is handling situation about right 34    26   -8
Neither/Don't know                10    13   +3
                                 100   100
                                 
Pew Research Center Aug. 17-21, 2011. Q8.
---------

People always want leaders to compromise. It's amazing
that a plurality wants Obama to confront the GOP more
strongly. Want to see something even more amazing?
You're seeing non-trivial numbers of Republicans say
that Obama should stand up to the Republicans:

Democrats Increasingly Want Obama to Stand Up to GOP

Obama should                      Apr   Aug   Change
challenge GOP                     2011  2011
more often . . .                  %     %

Total                             27    37    +10

Republican                        8     15    +7
 Cons Rep                         8     13    +5
 Mod/Lib Rep                      10    22    +12

Democrat                          39    57    +18
 Cons/Mod Democrat                35    55    +20
 Liberal Dem                      45    60    +15

Independent                       30    36    +6
 Lean Rep                         19    21    +2
 Lean Dem                         45    51    +6
 
Pew Research Center Aug. 17-21, 2011. Q8.
---------

The question hanging over Obama's political strategy has
always been the endgame. His obsession with seeming
reasonable makes sense if he uses it as an asset to
spend down at the end. You do everything to show your
willingness to compromise, and when the opposition
refuses and refuses, finally you assail them for their
fanaticism. It's harrowing to watch, because we don't
know until the last minute whether we're witnessing a
rope-a-dope strategy, or just a boxer being beaten to a
pulp.

___________________________________________

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