A poll released Monday has determined 52 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s tactics as he finishes out his first term and readies his administration for round two.
According to CNN’s national poll, 56 percent of those polled believe there is good to come in the next four years. However, CNN’s poll showed that in 2008 their optimism for Obama’s term was at 76 percent.
Obama’s decrease in support could be for a number of reasons, according to Donald Moynihan, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin’s La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Moynihan cited three reasons for Americans’ decreased optimism toward Obama.
He said he believes the public misjudges how difficult it is for presidents and Congress members to affect policy change during both good and hard times.
“The nature of our political system is that it is difficult to pass new policies at the best of times, and this has become even more difficult because of historical levels of polarization and a willingness to threaten to use the filibuster in the Senate,” Moynihan said.
He added even a popular president cannot change the difficult conditions.
Another explanation of the decrease in optimism for the next four years, Moynihan said, is the excitement and historical importance of electing America’s first black president in 2008.
He said people may have been more optimistic because of the symbolic event, but it does not make the president’s job any easier.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, noted the difficult state of the economy as a possible factor in decreased public optimism. He agreed the public underestimates how difficult of a task it is to realize economic change and that it takes time for an economy to recover.
Heck said when Obama was elected in 2008, he took on an economic recession that would take time to recover.
“Voters like the path [our country is on] and realized this is like the Great Depression; it’s going take a while for it to get better,” Heck said.
According to Heck, the nation’s public did not understand the length of time needed for the economy to turn around. He noted significant partisanship and gridlock within Congress did little to solve the problem during Obama’s first term in office, adding the end result was a pessimistic attitude.
Heck also said he believes as the economy gets better, Americans will become more optimistic about the country’s future.
CNN’s poll also showed the gender gap is disappearing in voter turnout, but the generational gap is still apparent.
According to the poll, both men and women are equal in their approval for Obama at 52 percent, but older Americans generally disapprove of Obama.
Barry Burden, UW political science professor, said the generation gap is not unusual.
“The generation gap is not surprising,” Burden said. “The last two presidential elections have seen larger generational differences since the 1972 election. I would expect that to carry over to approval ratings.”
Burden was, however, genuinely surprised at the disappearance of the gender gap. He noted women have recently been consistent Democratic voters, compared to a generation ago. Burden added men have recently been unpredictable and have drifted to the Republican side.