Tennesseans may think Barack Obama is the worst U.S. President ever, the newly released MT Poll suggests.
President Barack Obama talks with staff in Senior Advisor David Plouffe’s West Wing office at the White House, Oct. 6, 2011. (Official White House Photo/Pete Souza)
The poll shows Obama’s job approval rate hitting an all-time low in Tennessee, and his disapproval rate hitting an all-time high.
Conducted Oct. 3-14 by the College of Mass Communication at MTSU, the scientifically valid telephone poll of 640 randomly selected Tennessee adults found Obama’s disapproval rate among Tennesseans at an all-time high of 63 percent, and his approval rate at an all-time low of 30 percent.
“Obama’s current approval/disapproval ratings in the state are actually as bad or worse than those for (George W.) Bush at the lowest point of his presidency,” said Jason Reineke, an assistant professor in the college’s School of Journalism and the MTSU Poll’s associate director, explaining the differences are within the polls’ margins of error.
Reineke said Bush’s approval rating during this same period of his presidency, which would have been the fall of 2003, was 51 percent compared to 39 percent who disapproved.
“Bush’s approval declined toward the end of his presidency,” Reineke explained. “In spring of 2008, his approval was at 33 percent while disapproval was at 59 percent.”
Bush’s ratings slid more as the year’s progressed and the economy crashed in the fall of 2008. By the fall of that year, in the middle of bank crashes and bailouts, Bush’s approval rate was 32 percent and his disapproval rate was 59 percent.
Part of that poll also asked Tennesseans how Bush compared to other presidents: 24 percent said he was the “worst ever,” 15 percent said he was “very poor,” 18 percent said he was “poor,” 32 percent said he was “good,” 11 percent said “very good,” and less than 1 percent said he was the “best ever.”
But the MT Poll doesn’t have that sort of detailed data about Obama yet.
It can still be said Obama has seen a great reversal of fortunes since he was elected.
Obama enjoyed a 53 percent approval and a 27 percent disapproval rating in Tennessee during the spring of 2009, according to that semester’s poll. But his approval and disapproval ratings had grown roughly even by the fall 2009, and his disapproval numbers have exceeded his approval numbers in every MT Poll since.
One thing is for certain, Tennessee is a solid Red State now, which can be seen in the MT Poll’s results on the popularity of Republican Presidential candidates, which found Obama trailing all the Republicans in the 2012 race.
Mitt Romney leads Obama by 44 percent to 29 percent, Rick Perry leads Obama 41 percent to 28 percent, and Herman Cain leads Obama 39 percent to 28 percent.
In each match-up, between 14 and 16 percent of Tennesseans said they would vote for neither candidate, and another 14 to 19 percent are undecided or give no answer.
“A lot could happen between now and the 2012 presidential election, of course, but at this point, Obama’s campaign faces an uphill struggle against any seemingly plausible Republican challenger if the president is to win the state of Tennessee in 2012,” Reineke said, noting in 2008 Obama lost Tennessee to Republican presidential candidate John McCain 57 percent to 42 percent.
Tennessee’s disapproval of all things Washington also extends to Congress, the poll suggests.
A majority of Tennesseans (53 percent) said Obama is not doing enough to cooperate with Republicans in Congress, while only about a third (34 percent) said he is doing enough.
However, Tennesseans said congressional Republicans are even worse when it comes to cooperation, with only one in five (20 percent) saying Republicans in Congress are doing enough cooperate with the president, and two-thirds (66 percent) saying they are not. The remainder said they either don’t know or refused to answer the respective questions.
Sixty-four percent of Tennesseans said the economy and jobs are the most important problems facing the nation, but they are pessimistic about Washington’s ability to agree on a solution to the jobs problem.
Only 27 percent said they are either very or somewhat confident that Democrats and Republicans will be able to agree on a jobs bill, while a 69 percent majority said they are either not too confident, or not at all confident, in Democrats’ and Republicans’ ability to do so.
So, if cooperation and agreement are unlikely, whom do Tennesseans think should win out?
Most, 42 percent, have more faith in the Republicans’ ability to create new jobs, while only 24 percent of respondents said Democrats are more likely to do so.
Perhaps related to the parties’ inability to cooperate, 14 percent of Tennesseans volunteer that neither party is likely to create new jobs. Another 3 percent volunteer that both parties are likely to create new jobs.
Despite the greater prevalence of the belief that Republicans are more likely to create new jobs than Democrats, most Tennesseans do not blame Obama for the nation’s current economic woes.
A narrow majority, 51 percent, said the current economic conditions are something that Obama inherited, whereas only 32 percent said these conditions are the result of Obama’s own policies.
For comparison, a McClatchy-Marist Poll conducted nationally in September found that 60 percent of all Americans thought Obama mostly inherited the poor economic conditions, while 34 percent said the poor economy stemmed mostly form Obama’s own policies, and 6 percent were unsure.
Among likely voters in Tennessee, for whom job creation and economic blame seem probable factors in their 2012 vote choice, results regarding these issues were quite similar to those for the general public.
The poll also probed knowledge of the state’s new voter ID law and attitudes on several other issues.
• Seventy-one percent of Tennesseans said they have heard that state residents who go to vote will be asked to show a photo ID starting in 2012. The proportion drops to 51 percent among Tennesseans age 39 and younger but stands at 83 percent among those 40 and older.
Knowledge about specific aspects of the law varies widely both in general and among key demographic and political groupings. Solid majorities know that the law considers either a valid Tennessee driver’s license or a valid U.S. military ID an acceptable form of identification.
In other poll findings:
• Most Tennesseans (55 percent) favor letting the state’s lottery-funded college scholarship program continue to offset its annual operating deficits by drawing upon its reserves until after the economy improves.
• Tennesseans living in the counties ringing Metro Nashville give their local public schools a “B.” Those in Metro Nashville give theirs a “C.” Public schools elsewhere in the state get a C-plus.
• A narrow majority approves of Gov. Bill Haslam’s job performance as his first year in office draws to a close, but few disapprove. Considerable portions remain undecided about the governor’s job performance among independents, Democrats, and the general public.
• Sixty-seven percent favor tax increases and spending cuts to lower the deficit, proportions similar to those at the national level. But a plurality would spare the rich.
Just over two-thirds (67 percent) of Tennesseans think any plan to reduce the federal budget deficit should include a combination of both tax increases and spending cuts.