While Barack Obama is flying high in public opinion polls, there could be trouble ahead on the issues of same sex marriage, big government, and party identification, according to Frank Newport, Editor in Chief of the Gallup Poll.
“The data actually show some areas of concern for the Democrats,” Newport said at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Tuesday. In addition to his role at Gallup, Newport is the incoming president of the American Association for Public Opinion, the nation’s largest association of public opinion and polling professionals.
Still mostly sunny
Of course, the possible trouble areas Newport outlines for Democrats have to be viewed against a political backdrop that is far from encouraging for Republicans. President Obama’s job approval rating is a robust 67 percent.
And as non-partisan political analyst Charlie Cook [no relation] says in his latest column, “Half a year past a second-consecutive devastating election for Republicans -- in which they went further in the hole in the House and Senate and lost the presidency -- are they any better off now? Are there any signs of a rebound? The short answer would appear to be 'no'."
A conservative retrenchment
But that does not mean the Obama administration has uniformly strong support on every issue. “I do not think the public has moved radically liberal on a lot of social and values issues,” Newport said. He noted that Gallup’s daily polling had found “a retrenchment to the more conservative on gun control as an example."
"And there is some evidence even on abortion there may be somewhat of a retrenchment there.” he said.
Obama has been “very careful” on the issue of same sex marriage, Newport said, supporting civil unions but not marriage for gays. “Nevertheless I think that is an issue where the Republican Party might have an edge because the public remains conservative on social and value issues,” he said.
Fears of big government
Gallup’s polling has found “the public is sensitive to government getting too large,” Newport said. The conventional wisdom is that the public is giving the Obama administration “somewhat of a carte blanche at the moment because of the severity of the economic problem."
"But the real question will be when the economy picks up, will there be a reaction to too much big government, and/or will the Republicans be able to take this and exploit it?” Newport said.
“Americans still say in one of our [polling] questions the American government is trying to do too much that should be left to business and individuals,” Newport said. Of course, concerns about big government could be overpowered by a robust economic recovery. “It is ironic [that] if the economy picks up, it will allow Americans to say ‘too much of the big government’ [but] on the other hand, they will be happy because of the economy,” Newport said.
Fewer say they're Democrats
A final potential concern for Democrats is what Newport described as “a slight increase” in daily tracking polls of voters who identify as independents and a “slight beginning of a comedown” in those who identify as Democrats. In the first quarter of 2009, Gallup data found 35 percent of the population said they were Democrats, 28 percent Republicans, and 35 percent as independents.
“Those are three issues where I would be sensitive were I Obama’s pollster,” Newport said.
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