WASHINGTON —At a time of deepening political disaffection and intensified distress about the economy, President Barack Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
While the president is showing signs of vulnerability on his handling of the economy — a majority of respondents say he has yet to offer a clear plan for creating jobs — Americans blame former President George W. Bush, Wall Street and Congress much more than they do Obama for the nation’s economic problems and the budget deficit, the poll found.
They credit Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship, and they back the White House’s policies on a variety of disputed issues, from allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military to repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
The poll suggests that both parties face a toxic environment as they prepare for the elections in November. Public disapproval of Congress is at a historically high level, and huge numbers of Americans think Congress is beholden to special interests. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans say members of Congress deserve re-election.
As the party in power, Democrats face a particular risk from any wave of voter discontent; unfavorable views of the Democratic Party are as high as they have been since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, though Republicans continue to register an even worse showing. The percentage of Americans who approve of Obama’s job performance, 46 percent, is as low as it has been since he took office.
Still, the poll suggests that Obama and his party have an opportunity to deflect the anger and anxiety if they can frame the election not as a referendum on the president and his party, but as a choice between them and a Republican approach that is far less popular with Americans and yielded results under Bush that much of the nation still blames for the country’s woes. That is what the White House has been trying to do since the beginning of the year.
For all the erosion in support for Obama, Americans say he better understands their needs and problems and has made more of an effort to be bipartisan than congressional Republicans, the poll found.
“It feels like an attempt to sabotage the majority and to regain control of power rather than working on a compromise that says, ‘Let’s see what we have to do to get things straightened out,”’ John Smith, a Republican from Greenville, S.C., said of his party in an interview after participating in the poll.
Americans say that Obama is far less likely to favor special interests over the American people than Congress. Obama and his party continue to have an edge over Republicans on which party would do better in dealing with health care and job creation.