Another Poll Shows Obama Popular, Republicans Cut Down To Size

April 7, 2009 7:20 a.m.

The new CBS/New York Times poll paints a nearly-identical picture as the Pew poll: Democrats overwhelmingly approve of President Obama while Republicans overwhelmingly dislike him — and there aren’t a lot of Republicans left.

Obama’s top-line approval number is 66% to 24%, with 89% of Democrats approving and only 7% disapproving. Among Republicans it’s 31% approval to 54% disapproval, for a 55-point gap between Democrats and Republicans on approving of Obama’s performance. Meanwhile, independents approve by 63%-24%, nearly identical to the top-line.

But in a way, this really feeds into a narrative I’ve been noting for a while: That as the Republican base has shrunk, the ones who have peeled away were relative moderates while the people who remain are much more conservative and partisan. And those people would be much less likely to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.Now consider this: The weighted poll sample has only 23% Republican self-identification, against 39% Democrats. Even the unweighted sample is only 26% Republicans to 35% Democrats. And it’s not a coincidence that that number of Republicans and the disapproval of Obama are about the same — the disapproval starts with a majority of Republicans, with the difference made up by the minority of independents who disapprove.

As for the GOP’s own numbers, they aren’t good. Only 31% have a favorable opinion of the party, with 58% disapproval. By contrast, the Democrats are at 56%-34%.

For this poll, and for Pew, it doesn’t look like polarization — a word that often implies a more even divide — so much as there are two intertwined stories: Obama’s high popularity, and the GOP’s heavy unpopularity. Also, any high-profile politician will have a built-in base of people who disapprove every time under normal circumstances. In this case, it’s a pretty small base at the moment.

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