The issue of Syria has consumed national media attention and has incited intense political debate on both sides of the aisle, but a summary of President Obama’s approval ratings and recent polling information reveals a surprising lack of interest in foreign affairs among the American electorate.
President Obama was elected to the presidency in 2008, beating John McCain by 8 million popular votes, allowing a Democratic legislature to roll in on his coattails. During this time, Obama’s media coverage was primarily positive and his initial approval ratings were in the low 60s.
However, contrary to popular belief, this “honeymoon period” lasted for the first year of his presidency. According to Gallup, Obama averaged an overall approval rating of only 49.1 percent for his first term in office, which led to the election of a divided legislature in 2012. Therefore, though many would like to believe Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted in his current term, Gallup polls reveal this claim to be statistically inaccurate.
Interestingly, in light of the Syria conflict, Gallup is still reporting the overall approval rating of Obama at 49 percent. Though there has been a decrease in his approval rating with regards to the Syria issue specifically, this decline has not impacted his overall number. This overview of Obama’s approval ratings bears significant implications for his second term and also reveals why he is experiencing public and congressional hesitation with regards to the conflict in Syria.
In his speech to the nation on Tuesday, Sept. 10, Obama cited a need to preserve American values abroad as a reason to intervene in Syria. However, the LA Times points out that this moral argument is not as important to the voters as Obama’s administration would like to believe.
Overall, Obama’s foreign policy numbers have stayed steady since June, and a recent Gallup poll actually shows an increase in public approval for Obama’s handling of the economy and government management, revealing that the issue of Syria is, surprisingly, not on the forefront of the electorate’s mind. Instead, CNN polls reveal that issues like the unemployment rate and national deficit are more important to voters, even though they have gotten far less media and political coverage in the last few weeks.
In fact, a recent MSNBC poll revealed that a staggering 74 percent of American voters believe Obama is too focused on international concerns and is not giving enough attention to woes on the American homeland. These approval comparisons reveal that Obama is going to have a hard time winning over voters and legislators on Syria because they do not necessarily disagree with how Obama is handling the crisis in Syria, but instead object to the amount of time and resources being allotted to the issue itself.
Therefore, to garner enough support for intervention, Obama would have to first convince the American people and their representatives to care about the issue, and then move to intervention, revealing an even more intense political challenge for the Democratic party and President Obama.
Information from CNN News, Gallup Poll and the Los Angeles Times was used in this news report.