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Liberals still in Obama's corner, latest Gallup poll shows

August 03, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • President Barack Obama speaks in Rose Garden of the White House after the Senate passed the debt ceiling legislation.
President Barack Obama speaks in Rose Garden of the White House after the… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

Liberals, the small but often important electoral group, seem to be holding fast in their support for President Obama, according to the latest Gallup poll being circulated by Democrats.

In an email to reporters Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee highlighted the poll, buried earlier this week under the crush of reporting about the debt-ceiling crisis. The poll comes amid growing media reports that liberals are becoming disenchanted with Obama, especially after what they see as the president’s caving in to Republicans in the debt-limit negotiations.

For liberals, the final debt-ceiling package was a less than stellar agreement because Obama and Democrats backed away from getting new revenue from the rich while agreeing to more than $2 trillion in spending cuts in the next 10 years. The final compromise did not deal with changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, though Obama signaled he was willing to make some changes, less draconian than the GOP had sought, in exchange for a grand compromise on raising the debt limit.

The debt-ceiling finale came as liberals questioned other aspects of Obama’s performance: failing to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; accepting compromises during the healthcare overhaul debate; and what they see as slow rate of disengagement from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Key issues such as comprehensive immigration reform have also unfairly languished, they believe.

Conservatives love to use liberals as the boogeyman of big government, but the liberal vote has always been a dicey matter. According to most polls, about 20% of voters is a liberal, substantially less than the about 40% who identify themselves as conservative. Thus the battle for independents often determines elections, especially national ones.

Liberals are also notoriously diverse in ideology and are often seen as ineffective in governing — even by friends and allies. As H.L. Mencken noted last century: “The Liberals have many tails, and chase them all.”

Still, liberal-related institutions such as trade unions are important sources of money, campaign workers and voters for the Democratic Party. Perhaps a more important problem is the perception in the media that the president’s support is wavering in a group he needs for reelection.

With that in mind, the Gallup poll offers Democrats a bit of a silver lining.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama’s overall approval rating for the week of July 25-31 was 42%, about the same as the previous week and part of a continuing low for his administration. Approval was down among all ideological groups, but the president’s basic pattern remained the same, little support from those calling themselves conservatives, doing a bit better among moderates and remaining high among liberals.

Liberal approval of Obama stood at 72%, about 30 points above the general approval number and a touch higher than the 28-point advantage that Obama has averaged with liberals, according to the poll.

Those calling themselves Democrats backed Obama with 77% while independents were at 37% and 12% for Republicans. That pattern is about the same as the president has enjoyed throughout his administration, though last week’s numbers showed slightly higher Democratic support when compared with the overall rating.

The findings are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 3,531 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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