Any time I write about President Obama’s lackluster poll numbers, any number of people take to Twitter to helpfully remind me that he isn’t on the ballot this fall and is constitutionally barred from seeking a third time. Their argument comes down to this: Who cares what President Obama’s approval ratings are?
A new national Pew Research Center poll shows why any Democrat on the ballot this November should care. Roughly three in ten people said that their vote this fall would be “against” Obama as compared to just 19 percent who said that their vote would be to show support for the president. Those numbers aren’t as bad as what George W. Bush and Republicans faced before the 2006 midterms (38 percent voting against Bush, 15 percent voting for him) but are worse for Obama than at this time in the 2010 election cycle (28 percent vote against, 23 percent vote for) in which the president’s party lost 63 house seats.
As interesting/important question is who Obama is motivating to vote this fall. A majority (51 percent) of voters who say they are planning to vote for a Republican in their district say they mean that as a vote against Obama. Among self-identified Republicans, 55 percent say their congressional vote is meant to be against Obama; 61 percent of conservatives say the same. On the other end of the spectrum, just 36 percent say that their vote for Congress is meant as a vote for Obama. More than one in four (27 percent) of independents say their vote is against Obama; just 10 percent say it is in support of the president.
What those numbers suggest is that while Obama is not the only factor in how people will vote this fall, he is absolutely a factor in how people are making up their minds. And, at the moment, people who see 2014 as a way to send a signal of disapproval about Obama greatly outnumber the people who want to use their vote to show their support for him and his agenda.