There is lots of news in the latest Pew poll, from Obama’s approval rating to who seems to poll best against him. Highlights:
The sizeable lead Barack Obama held over a generic Republican opponent in polls conducted earlier this year has vanished as his support among independent voters has fallen off. Currently, 41% of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 40% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win in 2012. In May, Obama held an 11-point lead.
This shift is driven by a steep drop-off in support for Obama among independents. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted July 20-24 among 1,501 adults and 1,205 registered voters finds that just 31% of independent voters want to see Obama reelected, down from 42% in May and 40% in March. Where Obama held a slim 7-point edge among independent registered voters two months ago, a generic Republican holds an 8-point edge today.
This is consistent with a drop in Obama’s approval among all independents. Currently, a majority (54%) disapprove of Obama’s performance for the first time in his presidency. His approval among independents has slipped to 36% from 42% last month and 49% in late May.
While Texas governor Rick Perry is a relatively new name in discussions of the GOP race, he is drawing strong interest from highly attentive Republicans. Among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters who say they have given a lot of thought to the candidates, 22% support Perry, 15% Romney, 13% Bachmann and 12% Cain.
And Perry’s lead is substantial among highly attentive Tea Party supporters. Perry has the backing of 29% of Republicans and Republican-leaners who agree with the Tea Party. That is nearly double the backing for the next closest candidate, Herman Cain (16%). The overall frontrunner, Mitt Romney, receives the backing of 11% of highly engaged Tea Party voters.
Obama’s reelection support is well behind the 10-point lead George W. Bush held over a generic Democratic candidate at a comparable point in 2003. Bush enjoyed a substantially stronger approval rating in July 2003 (58% vs. 44% currently for Obama), yet his support was also slipping. By October of that year, a Pew Research Center survey found him running even against a generic Democratic candidate (42% to 42%), as Obama is today.
It’s the July before the actual election year, so polls this far out are by no means hard lines set in stone. But they do show where trends are heading, and those trends are bound to disturb the White House.