Disapproval of US President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the President “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement.
The potential political consequences are clear, with the rising public disapproval reversing some of the gains the President had made in hypothetical general-election matchups against possible Republican rivals for the White House.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) now both run about evenly with Obama. The findings come just five weeks after Obama appeared to be getting a boost from the improving economy.
Gas prices are a main culprit: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the President is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard. Just 26% approve of his work on the issue, his lowest rating in the poll.
The survey — conducted Wednesday through Saturday — finds 59% of Americans giving Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month. Now, 50% give him intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post-ABC News poll, and a jump of nine percentage points.
The negative movement has also stalled what had been a gradual increase since the fall in the President’s overall approval rating. In the new poll, 46% approve of the way Obama is handling his job; 50% disapprove. That’s a mirror image of his 50 to 46 positive split in early February.
Even on foreign policy — a onetime strong point — his ratings look worse. For the first time in nearly a year, as many Americans disapprove as approve of his handling of the Afghanistan war.
In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post