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November 6, 2013

Obama's Gallup approval rating hits new low

CHICAGO — President Barack Obama's rating in the daily Gallup poll has fallen to its lowest level since October 2011 as his administration continues to be tarnished by the rocky debut of his health-care program.

The Democrat's approval rating stands at 39 percent in the survey, down since the start of October when the rollout of online health exchanges began. The last time his Gallup approval rating was at or above 50 percent was in late June.

"Obama had been able to ride out the shutdown pretty well and Republicans took the blame for that," said David Redlawsk, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "Unfortunately for him, Obama became the next focus amid the utter disaster that was the rollout of healthcare.gov."

Redlawsk said the situation is "absolutely" hurting the president's standing with Americans, although it is too early to say that it will damage Democratic prospects in the 2014 elections.

"If by next spring people are taking about how great it is to have insurance, that will count for a heck of a lot more than right now," he said.

Presidents are typically less popular in their second terms and Obama is no exception.

His current rating remains above the 37 percent second-term average recorded by former President George W. Bush in the Gallup survey. Former President Richard Nixon, who left office in August 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, averaged 34 percent in his second term.

Republicans are comparing this point of Obama's presidency with Hurricane Katrina, when Bush's botched response to the 2005 storm that ravaged the Gulf Coast and led to more than 1,800 deaths damaged his public standing.

Obama's second-term woes also have included Edward Snowden's disclosures of National Security Agency telephone and Internet surveillance and opposition to his request to use force in Syria.

The health-care law remains the centerpiece of a first-term Obama agenda that included an $830 billion economic stimulus, ramped-up support for clean-energy production, and the most far- reaching financial-regulatory law since the Depression.

He has set an expansive second-term agenda that includes a revamp of immigration policy, action to control climate change, greater access to pre-kindergarten education, and a boost in infrastructure spending. Much of that agenda has been impeded by the Republican-run House and the deadlock over taxes and spending that led to a 16-day federal government shutdown.

The federal health-care website remains hobbled by software errors and was overwhelmed by higher-than-anticipated consumer demand after it opened on Oct. 1. About 8.6 million people visited the site in the first week, running into long waits that kept many from checking insurance options.

Republicans have fought the health-care legislation at every turn, seeking to make it a symbol of government overreach. Republican-controlled state legislatures and governors have refused funding to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor, as provided for under the law, and declined to set up exchanges — the marketplaces where individuals can buy insurance — leaving that job to the federal government.

Gallup tracks daily the percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president, based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,500 adults and with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The 39 percent approval was based on interviews conducted Nov. 2-4.

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