The past year has been tough on President Barack Obama's poll numbers, especially among Hispanics.
The disastrous Obamacare rollout, coupled with revelations about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program, have sent Obama's poll numbers plunging across the board, according to a Gallup poll released in early December. Obama's national job approval averaged 41 percent in November, down 12 percentage points from 53 percent last December, his high-water mark since his first year in office.
The president's approval rating among Hispanics took an especially precipitous drop, plummeting 23 points over the last 11 months, from 75 percent to 52 percent. That's the most among major subgroups polled and nearly twice the average national decline.
"His popularity is dropping among all groups, including those who were his biggest fans," said Brian Sanderoff, the Journal's pollster and president of Research and Polling Inc. in Albuquerque. "On the one hand (Obama's approval ratings among Hispanics) have dropped significantly, but that's tempered by the fact that it started out at astronomical numbers."
If the lackluster approval from Hispanics -- the nation's fastest-growing voter group -- persists, it could hamper Obama's second-term agenda, especially as he tries to create some momentum for Democrats in the mid-term congressional elections, and build national momentum for immigration reform and other priorities.
"It's not good news for the president," Sanderoff said.
There are a few brights spots for Obama amidst the dreary political landscape painted by the Gallup poll. The poll did not survey Hispanics who speak Spanish as their primary language, which could skew the results to the right. So-called "Spanish dominant" Hispanics tend to be immigrants and as a group are highly supportive of immigration reform, which Obama has cited as a top priority for his second term.
Skeptics also point out that Gallup is the same polling outfit that infamously predicted Republican candidate Mitt Romney would win the presidential election in 2012. So, there is a question of accuracy. However, Gallup -- a long established and respected national polling firm -- has acknowledged its mistakes in the 2012 presidential race and taken steps to address them.
The Gallup poll's synopsis points out that Hispanics' approval of Obama have
--shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency. That means their views of him fluctuate more than those of other groups, which may help explain why their opinions of the president soured more than any other group's during the rockiest year of the Obama presidency. It's worth noting that, despite the significant decline in Hispanic approval over the past 12 months, a majority of this group, 52 percent, do still approve of the job Obama is doing, according to the Gallup Poll.
It's not just Hispanics who are disenchanted with the president. Obama lost polling ground among all major subgroups polled, including liberals. A year ago, 84 percent of polling participants who identified as liberal approved of the president's job performance. By early December of this year, that number had dropped to 70 percent.
Low-income Americans are similarly disappointed. According to the Gallup Poll, 64 percent of Americans making $24,000 per year or less approved of Obama's job performance in December 2012. A year later, that number has plunged to 46 percent, the second largest drop among subgroups polled after Hispanics.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Obama's poll numbers dropped least among self-described "conservative Republicans." That's because his approval ratings were already in the cellar among these group. According to Gallup, 7 percent of conservative Republicans approved of Obama's job performance a year ago while that number now sits at 5 percent.
Sanderoff said Obama has his work cut out for him if he hopes to turn his plunging poll numbers around. Maybe a bit ironically, one of Obama's best bets could come from the Affordable Care Act -- the same legislation that led to his precipitous drop. Hispanics, as a group, tend to have incomes on the lower end of the national scale and lack health insurance in greater numbers. As states such as New Mexico expand Medicaid for low-income people under the new health law, more Hispanics could find themselves insured -- and perhaps feeling better about this president, Sanderoff said.
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