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Monday, June 17, 2013

Pres. Obama’s approvals take a dive as young voters react to NSA controversy

Vintage high diver photo
CNN: President Barack Obama’s approval rating dropped eight percentage points over the past month, to 45%, the president’s lowest rating in more than a year and a half, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning comes as the White House has been reacting to controversies over a massive U.S. government surveillance program; the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status; the administration’s handling of last September’s attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead; and the Justice Department’s secret collection of journalists’ phone records as part of a government investigation into classified leaks.

The poll indicates that for the first time in Obama’s presidency, half of the public says they don’t believe he is honest and trustworthy. And Americans are split on the controversial National Security Agency anti-terrorism program to record metadata on U.S. phone calls, but they support the NSA program that targets records of Internet usage by people in other countries. That doesn’t mean they necessarily like what is going on: Just over six in 10 believe that government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.
“The drop in Obama’s support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. Holland credits news about the NSA’s PRISM program, as well as “older controversies like the IRS matter” for the drop. I’m less convinced about the IRS story, since it wasn’t really going anywhere before and now all of a sudden it’s some huge planet-tilter? No, the new information that seems to be changing opinions here is PRISM. Obama is also down 10 points with Independents.

So much of what the chattering class has assumed has been wrong so far. First, we were all supposed to be supportive of this sort of thing — until polls showed we weren’t. And young people were supposed to be so used to electronic invasions of privacy from Facebook, Google, tracking cookies, etc. that they weren’t going to get all worked up over it. Now here we see young voters getting all worked up over it.

That said, it’s hard to see Obama’s approvals have much impact on the elections. There is a legitimate split in both parties on domestic surveillance and that seems to be more of a potential influence than anything. When the issue isn’t polarized on a Democrat/Republican axis, it’s hard to see what the president’s party membership has to do with anything.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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