File this under things that should worry Democrats facing the electorate in 2014: Obama’s standing with independents is collapsing. A new NBC/WSJ poll finds that Obama’s scandal-plagued second term has taken a toll among a critical section of the electorate.
Reports NBC‘s Chuck Todd:
Obama’s numbers among independent respondents have declined — just 28% approve of his job, which is down from 41% in February and 37% in April. What’s more, he’s also seen an erosion in his numbers on presidential qualities (like being a strong leader, being honest and straightforward, and changing business as usual in Washington), although they’re above where they were after the debt-ceiling fight in 2011. The president’s ability to push Congress publicly to get some of his agenda passed will be curtailed if he can’t improve those numbers with political independents.
The Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake reports this is a trend seen in two recent polls:
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) June 5, 2013
Two key points Blake points out in the NBC/WSJ poll are the core issues of trust that point to a rough road ahead for Obama and Congressional Democrats trying to defend the administration:
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, when asked about each of three current controversies — Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the Justice Department’s monitoring of journalists — at least 55 percent of respondents in each case say the scandal raises doubts about “the overall honesty and integrity of the Obama administration.” And for each, at least 39 percent say it raises major doubts (with Benghazi the highest at 45 percent).
But Americans so far are more inclined to believe the worst of the administration than its explanations for the controversies. They are more likely to say (43 percent to 29 percent) that the IRS scandal is part of a widespread campaign against conservative groups than that it was just a few officials misbehaving, and they side with journalists in the Justice Department controversy (48 percent say the monitoring was not appropriate, versus 27 percent who say it was appropriate).
When trust of a politician or political party collapses it doesn’t quickly return. If polls like this continue to come out, it will be hard not to draw parallels to 2006, when exit polls showed that corruption and ethics in government were voters’ top concerns.
And we all remember how well that worked out for the incumbent president’s party at the time.
Whenever one party trounces the other, like Republicans domination in 2004 or Democrats in 2008 or 2012, there is always talk of permanent majorities. What years like 2006, 2010 and likely 2014 show is that people never trust either party for very long. Soon enough, scandals emerge and swing the pendulum back in the other direction.