WASHINGTON — Public disapproval of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy reached a new high in mid-April, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, as gasoline prices neared $4 a gallon and Washington lawmakers fought a bitter battle over the federal budget.
Some 57 percent of registered voters said they disapproved of Obama's economic management, while only 40 percent approved. That's the lowest score of his presidency.
"These numbers spell political trouble," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the survey. "To get re-elected with a 57 percent disapproval rating would be a very tall order."
Meanwhile, public pessimism is growing: Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults said they thought the worst was yet to come for the U.S economy, up sharply from 39 percent in January. And 71 percent said the nation was still in a recession, even though the slump, which began in December 2007, officially ended in June 2009.
The survey asked 1,084 registered voters about Obama on April 10-14. The error margin is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
"Gasoline prices were taking off, and while people weren't blaming Obama or Congress for that, it certainly put people in a sour mood," Miringoff said.
Obama gave a major speech April 13 in which he laid out his economic and budget agenda in general terms. But his speech didn't change many voters' attitudes. Before the address, 58 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy; after the speech, the negative number dropped to 56 percent. Approval was 40 percent before the address, 41 percent after.
Political analysts generally regard economic conditions as a predictor of upcoming elections. Troubling signs abound. The nation's unemployment rate last month was 8.8 percent, down 1 percentage point from November but still high. The Consumer Price Index, which measures the prices of goods and services, climbed 0.5 percent last month, as gasoline prices rose for the ninth straight month.
Obama could take solace from one finding: Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said the current economic conditions were mostly something the president had inherited, while 30 percent said they were mostly the result of his policies.
Miringoff called that data "a silver lining," but added, "It's hard to paint a rosy picture" of the public's attitude toward Obama on the economy.
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