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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Agony of the Liberals” Versus Obama’s Liberal Approval Ratings

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat penned a thumb-sucker yesterday about the terrrible disappointment, occasionally spilling over into rage and despair, with Barack Obama among liberals. Here’s the nut graph:

American liberalism has always had a reputation for fractiousness and frantic self-critique. But even by those standards, the current bout of anguish over the Obama presidency seems bizarrely disproportionate.

Sure, Douthat has some scattered examples of said anguish. But when you are characterizing the attitudes of those sharing a major ideological self-identification, a bit more precision is in order. And a look at Gallup’s tracking poll at Obama’s approval ratings among liberals and Liberal Democrats makes Douthat’s dark meditation on liberal angst look a bit ridiculous.
According to the latest Gallup survey, 79% of “liberals” approve of Obama’s job performance, compared to 78% month ago, 78% two months ago, 76% three months ago, and a bit over 80% during 2009. If his liberal support has collapsed in “angst,” it’s pretty much hidden in the numbers. And since Douthat’s hinting at some terrible intraparty struggle-for-the-soul-of-the-donkey, it’s worth noting that a reasonably robust 90% of “liberal Democrats” currently approve of the job Obama’s doing, which is well above his average for 2010 and exactly where he stood last Labor Day.
Sure, you can find elite opinion on the Left that’s been souring on Obama steadily as we head towards the midterm elections. But it’s a useful reality check to note that when it comes to actual voting Americans of the liberal persuasion, if there’s any “agony” over Obama, it is mostly derived from anger at the president’s opponents.

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