Trust in President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies to identify the right solutions to problems facing the country has dropped off significantly since March, according to a new Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO poll.
Just as Obama intensifies his efforts to fulfill a campaign promise and reach an agreement with Congress on health care reform, the number of Americans who say they trust the president has fallen from 66 percent to 54 percent. At the same time, the percentage of those who say they do not trust the president has jumped from 31 to 42.
The president’s party has taken a similar hit since the last Public Trust Monitor poll, with only 42 percent of respondents saying that they trust the Democratic Party, compared with 52 percent who do not. The party’s numbers are nearly the inverse of March’s survey, in which 52 percent said they trusted Democrats and 42 percent did not.
Obama’s personal approval rating has fallen below 60 percent in a number of recent major polls, and according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey out Monday, support for the president’s leadership on several key issues has fallen below 50 percent.
But whatever the problems faced by Obama and his party, they still earn higher approval ratings than other Washington leaders or the Republican Party, according to the Public Trust Monitor poll. And the loss in trust in Democrats did not correspond with a gain for the GOP: Trust in Republicans fell from 40 percent in March to 36 percent in the recent survey.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin also took small hits in public trust, slipping to 24 percent from 26 percent and to 35 percent from 38 percent. Only 15 percent of respondents said they trust House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), while 32 percent said they trust former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a likely 2012 Republican presidential candidate, and 24 percent said they trust Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, one of the principal architects of the Obama administration’s economic policy.
The poll is based on 1,000 online surveys of registered voters conducted July 9-12 by Public Strategies Inc., a public relations and business advisory firm based in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with POLITICO, and has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.
Along with Obama’s declining personal numbers, there were other signs in the poll of potential problems for his administration and agenda. Only 44 percent of those polled said the federal government is headed on the right track. In March, only a few months into Obama’s presidency, 54 percent said the federal government was on the right track, up 19 percentage points from the closing days of the Bush administration in December. Meanwhile, trust in the federal government has dropped from 63 percent to 58 percent since March, while trust that it will manage its finances responsibly has fallen from 40 percent to 32 percent during that time.
Just as faith in the president has slipped since March, so, too, has trust in much of his agenda.
The number of respondents who think the $787 billion federal stimulus package will have a positive impact on the nation’s economy has dropped from 56 percent to 45 percent. The percentage of those who think the stimulus will have a negative impact has remained steady at just more than a quarter of those polled, but the number of those who think the stimulus will have no impact on the economy has jumped from 18 percent to 28 percent.
When looking at their own lives, respondents were even less positive about the stimulus. More than half, 56 percent, said the $787 billion package will have no impact on their life, up from 45 percent. Only 22 percent think the stimulus will have a positive impact on them, down from 36 percent in March; 23 percent think it will have a negative impact, up slightly from 20 percent.
In addition, more respondents said government-managed solutions would make the health care situation worse than said they would make it better or keep the situation the same.
Asked what effect a government-managed health care coverage option would have on access to health services, 40 percent said it would make the situation worse, 38 percent said it would make it better and 22 percent said it would remain the same. Asked what its effect would be on the quality of health care, 42 percent said it would make health care worse, 33 percent said it would make it better and 25 percent said it would not have an effect.
Nearly half of respondents — 44 percent — believe government-managed coverage will increase the price of health care. Only 27 percent think a government-managed health care system would lower costs, while 29 percent said prices would remain the same.
That concern about the cost of health care may also be reflected in growing anxiety that the Obama administration will raise taxes. Asked if their taxes would increase or decrease under Obama’s watch, 63 percent said their taxes will be higher, and only 9 percent said their tax burden will decrease. In March, 54 percent thought their taxes would be higher, compared with 17 percent who believed their taxes would go down.
Support for further regulation of American business has also dropped off markedly.
Just under half of those polled said regulation of corporations should be increased, down from 61 percent in March. In addition, a plurality of 40 percent of Americans fear the federal government will go too far in regulating financial institutions, up 9 percentage points from March, when voters were more worried that the government would not go far enough in regulating financial firms.
At the same time, nearly two-thirds of those polled fear the government will provide too much financial help to ailing companies, up from just over half of those polled in March.
As support for regulation has dropped, trust in American business has increased.
While 59 percent still do not trust corporations to do the right thing, the number who do has ticked up from 37 percent to 41 percent. At the same time, despite lagging economic indicators, 53 percent of the poll’s respondents believe American business is on the right track. In March, only 40 percent said the same.
The increased trust in corporations and dropping faith in government may, oddly, indicate that those polled believe the economy is on its way back. Asked which of the two will play a larger role in economic recovery, 32 percent said the government and 68 percent said business.