During all of his first term, even as his job approval ratings tumbled in 2010 and 2011, more voters expressed positive than negative personal feelings toward Barack Obama. This was a source of strength that helped him overcome opposition to some of his policies, notably Obamacare, in the 2012 presidential election.
But now voters seem to be souring on him personally. Evidence comes from the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday. It shows the percentages expressing "very" or "somewhat" positive feelings and "very" or "somewhat" negative feelings toward Obama in NBC/WSJ polls going back to February 2009. In the following chart I set out the averages of those expressing positive and negative feelings over stated periods.
It’s a pretty clear picture. Throughout the campaign year, 49 percent of people had favorable feelings to Obama, a number basically mirrored in the 51 people of the popular vote he won in November. Between the election and his second inaugural ceremony, Obama enjoyed a somewhat higher personal rating, an afterglow, as tends to happen when a president is re-elected. Through the first nine months of 2013 more voters express positive than negative feelings, though by a slightly reduced margin as compared to the campaign year. Then, in mid-October, as the fiasco of the Obamacare rollout reverberated and Obama was forced to admit that his promise that you could keep your insurance and your doctor were false, something snapped. Then, a plurality had negative feelings and only 42 percent expressed positive feelings.
How does a president re-establish the bonds of trust with most voters after they have snapped? That’s a question facing Barack Obama right now.