Thank you, Chris Dodd, and other news from the Quinnipiac poll

Sen. Chris Dodd's sacrifice for his party appears to have paid off, big-time.

There’s lots of meat in three new Quinnipiac polls for Democrats and the Obama administration to consider. In a nutshell, the polls show Chris Dodd did Democrats a huge favor by bowing out of the Connecticut Senate race, which now appears to be completely out of reach for Republicans, and they show that while voters like Barack Obama much more than they did George W. Bush (who they mostly blame for the current state of the country) they are disappointed with Obama’s performance on national security, the economy and healthcare. The poll seems to indicate that Obama’s low overall ratings (he’s at 45-45 approval/disapproval) stem as much from deflated ratings among Democrats as from almost universally negative ratings by Republicans, and negative-trending ratings among Independents. Oh, and Connecticut voters hate Joe Lieberman (then again, who doesn’t? … but they dislike Dodd even more.) A few highlights: 

In Connecticut (Jan. 14 poll):

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has 35 to 47-point leads over three Republican candidates for the 2010 U.S. Senate contest, thumping former wrestling executive Linda McMahon 64 – 23 percent, bruising businessman Peter Schiff 66 – 19 percent and smacking former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons 62 – 27 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

… n matchups with Republicans, Blumenthal gets 89 to 90 percent of the Democratic voters, 60 to 64 percent of the independent voters and 30 to 38 percent of Republican voters.

Connecticut voters approve 84 – 11 percent of the job Blumenthal is doing as attorney general and give him a 74 – 13 percent favorability rating.

“Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s job approval is unbelievably high, higher than any other politician we’ve ever measured, other than former President George W. Bush after 9/11,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

“Rob Simmons must be wondering what happened. In September, prior to McMahon’s entry, he was the clear frontrunner for the nomination. He was at 43 percent and no other Republican was in double digits. He also was ahead of Dodd. Now, Simmons is in a real Republican primary race with Linda McMahon and gets destroyed by Blumenthal.”

On Lieberman and Dodd:

Connecticut voters disapprove 54 – 39 percent of the job Sen. Joseph Lieberman is doing, one point off his worst grade ever and a steep drop from a 49 – 44 percent approval November 12. Republicans approve 61 – 35 percent while Democrats disapprove 67 – 27 percent and independent voters disapprove 57 – 36 percent.

Voters disapprove 58 – 36 percent of the job Sen. Christopher Dodd is doing. Only 12 percent are disappointed Dodd is not seeking reelection, because they think he is doing a good job and another 13 percent are disappointed because a Republican would have a better chance against Dodd. But 38 percent of voters say they are glad, because Dodd is not doing a good job and 27 percent are glad because it gives another Democrat a better chance to win the Senate seat.

On security (Jan 14 poll):

Voters nationwide appear to have been driven back to the security-over-liberty quaver the country found itself in after 9/11, with most of those polled favoring such things as military tribunals, body scanners at the airport, racial/ethnic profiling of “Middle Eastern looking people” (which by the way would have ruled out the UndieBomber, who is an “African looking people”…) and putting national security ahead of civil rights. No word on whether most Americans still favor torture. Quinnipiac didn’t ask, since we don’t exactly do that anymore (sorry, Cheney family.) A few highlights:

American voters say 63 – 25 percent that the government’s anti-terror policies lean too far toward protecting civil rights rather than national security and by 84 – 13 percent back greater use of airport body scanners opposed by privacy advocates because the machines scan a person’s body through their clothing, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Support for the war in Afghanistan is up, at 59 – 35 percent, compared to 51 – 41 percent in a December 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. But voters disagree with President Obama’s plan to try suspected terrorists in civilian courts, saying 59 – 34 percent they should be tried in military courts. Voters approve 48 – 44 percent of Obama’s handling of terror.

… Voters say 52 – 44 percent that law enforcement should be able to single out people who look Middle-Eastern for screening and questions, and by 79 – 16 percent they back the recent decision to subject air travelers from 14 designated countries – most of them nations with large Muslim populations – to extra screening.

“The failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a flight into Detroit has the American people security conscious. They are more supportive of the Afghan war; they think the government is worrying too much about civil liberties and not enough about security, and they overwhelmingly favor the use of body scanners on air travelers. Apparently, personal safety overrides concerns about modesty,” said Brown. “In addition voters don’t want Guantanamo closed; they don’t want terrorists tried in civilian courts and they back singling out those who look Middle Eastern or travelers from some heavily Muslim nations for extra scrutiny.”

On healthcare (Jan 14):

The administration appears to have lost support among Democrats/liberals, who increasingly say the proposed health bills “don’t go far enough,” and from Independents who feel the bill goes too far. This is bad news for the administration, which is counting on a combination of a pivot to jobs, and a hard sell on healthcare to improve Democratic prospects in November. From the Jan. 14 poll:

Public support for health care reform continues to decline, as 34 percent mostly approve, while 54 percent mostly disapprove, compared to 53 – 36 percent disapproval December 22.

While 44 percent think the proposed health care changes “go too far,” 29 percent say they do not go “far enough” and 17 percent think the health care changes are “about right.” The “not far enough” and “about right” total 46 percent. For the first time, voters trust congressional Republicans as much as President Obama on health care, 42 – 41 percent, compared to a 45 – 40 percent Obama edge December 22. Obama’s “trust” margin July 1 was 53 – 33 percent.

“Support for President Barack Obama’s health care reform continues to decline marginally and now only about one in three voters say they mostly approve of the pending legislation. Opposition seems mostly driven by those who think the plan under consideration is too ambitious. The whole health care issue showcases the Grand Canyon-like divide opened up among the electorate,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Consider this disparity; 68 percent of Democrats say they back the pending legislation, compared to 9 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of independents,” Brown added.

The fact that Obama is only pulling two-thirds of Democrats indicates to me at least, that part of his problem is with core liberals, who despise the compromises made with conservative Democrats and Joe Lieberman. That’s a red flag the administration ought to pay attention to.

And last, but not least:

On President Obama’s first year (Jan. 13 poll):

Voters are giving the president decidedly mixed reviews, but at least he’s not George W. Bush, who is quickly emerging as one of the least respected presidents in modern U.S. history. From the poll:

American voters are split 45 – 45 percent on whether Barack Obama’s first year in office is a success or failure and split 35 – 37 percent on whether the U.S. would be better off if John McCain had won the 2008 election, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released today. As he marks the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Obama’s approval has slipped slightly into an even 45 – 45 percent split for the first time.

By a 43 – 30 percent margin American voters think Obama has been a better President than George W. Bush, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. Voters blame Bush more than Obama 55 – 20 percent for the current economic conditions, but they say 35 – 24 percent that Obama’s policies have made the United States less safe than those of his predecessor. Another 38 percent say safety is about the same.

Looking at his characteristics, voters say:

* 56 – 37 percent that he is honest and trustworthy;
* 66 – 32 percent that he is a strong leader;
* 50 – 46 percent that Obama does not share their views on the issues they care about;
* 53 – 43 percent he is being fiscally irresponsible in his spending of federal money.

“President Barack Obama’s approval rating is dead even for the first time, which is more of a symbolic low than any large movement in public opinion against him,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “When asked to compare, voters give Obama a higher rating than George W. Bush, but that’s not much to write home about since Bush’s approval at one point was among the lowest of any president in history.

And…

“His split verdict from voters on whether he is a failure or a success pretty much sums up divisions among the American people, divisions that are perhaps magnified when the subject is Obama,” Brown added. “But it is important to understand that this overall split masks deeper divisions that fall across gender, racial and age lines.”

By a 47 – 40 percent margin, independent voters rate Obama’s first year in office as mainly a failure; 81 percent of Democrats say it’s a success and 75 percent of Republicans say it’s a failure. Men say failure 50 – 40 percent, while women say success 49 – 40 percent. White voters say failure 54 – 37 percent, while black voters say success 82 – 7 percent.

Obama’s job approval is only slightly lower than his 46 – 43 percent rating in Quinnipiac University’s December 23 survey. But it continues a gradual but consistent downward move that began last summer when his approval rating was 59 – 31 percent positive June 4.

The poll also found that President Obama’s ratings on individual issues are consistently lower than his overall approval (with the exception of Afghanistan,) meaning that he remains more personally popular than his policies.

The overall trend, in which the president appears to have disappointed voters more than anything, may be why the White House is moving in a more populist direction of late, including finally, if belatedly, appearing to at least make an effort to go after the big banks. An (unscientific) WaPo online poll on the Obama plan to tax risky investments so far indicates it’s a popular idea.

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