Three Reasons Obama Had a Terrible Year

Peter Z. Scheer
Managing Editor
Peter Scheer grew up in the newspaper business, spending family vacations with his mother at newspaper editors\' conferences, enjoying daycare in editorial departments and begrudgingly reviewing his father\'s…
Peter Z. Scheer

President Obama’s job approval rating began dropping almost from the beginning of 2013, and it never really recovered.

According to Gallup, which tracks the president’s approval with a three-day rolling poll among other measures, there were three major factors in the public’s mounting disapproval.

First: the budget sequester. Even though voters blamed Republicans more than Democrats, the president’s polling took an immediate hit when the government shut down in March.

His approval rating stayed below 50% for most of March, and ultimately averaged 48% for the month, down three points from February’s 51%

Second: the explosive NSA story. Although Edward Snowden reportedly turned over everything he had to Glenn Greenwald and other journalists ages ago, new revelations about the NSA’s widespread and invasive spying operation continually haunt the administration.

The Guardian continued to expose U.S. government spy programs through the summer, with the revelations sparking outcries against the Obama administration from certain members of Congress and world leaders. Meanwhile, Obama’s approval rating sank a point per month, hitting 44% in September.

Third: Obamacare. While some of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act are only now going into effect, the initial rollout of the program, which required some Americans to use a broken website to register for mandatory health insurance, was an undisputed disaster. Add to the technological debacle the embarrassing admission by the president that some people who already had insurance would not be able to keep their plans, as he had promised many times, and the whole system began to wobble. Republicans wasted no time in exploiting these breakdowns, and they had great success.

This period also spanned the Oct. 1 opening of federal health insurance exchange websites, which gave Americans access to a new health insurance marketplace under the new healthcare law. However, the website had major technical problems, and many Americans lost their health insurance because it didn’t comply with the law. This prompted some to charge that Obama intentionally misled the public about their freedom to retain their own healthcare plans. Likely as a result, Obama’s average approval rating fell further in late October and into November. Underscoring this, Obama brushed up against his own record-low approval rating of 38% (from 2011) with three 39% ratings in November and, as a result, it fell two points overall in November after a one-point drop in October.

Gallup is careful to point out that previous presidents have rebounded from bad years. However, “recent polling history doesn’t offer any firm conclusions about what a year of decline portends for a president; there is precedent for recovery, but also for stagnation.”

Read the full story on Gallup’s website.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer


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