Holiday polls add little political cheer to Obama's Hawaiian vacation

President Obama's approval rating after two years in office is higher than President Clinton's was at the same time, but the latest poll ratings are mixed political news.

Chris Carlson/AP
President Barack Obama drives down the first fairway at Mid-Pacific County club with friend Mike Ramos during his holiday vacation in Kailua, Hawaii, on Tuesday.

President Obama’s Hawaiian holiday vacation has brought quality family time, rounds of golf, outings with his daughters for shaved ice, and dinner at his favorite Honolulu restaurant – but little political cheer.

Gallup daily tracking numbers released Thursday showed the president’s approval rating for the December 26-28 period at 47 percent, down slightly from the 49 percent level recorded December 20-22 as Congress wrapped up work on a flurry of legislation. The president’s current job approval rating is close to the 46 percent average he has maintained since early November.

At the moment, some 46 percent of Americans disapprove of Mr. Obama’s job performance, Gallup said.

The poll numbers are mixed political news. One the one hand, “the general stability in Obama’s approval ratings since the November 2 midterm election – in which his party lost majority control of the US House of Rpresentatives – can be characterized as positive for Obama,” wrote Gallup editor Lydia Saad. Most presidents whose party suffers major midterm losses find their approval ratings falling, she notes.

However, “one might have expected Obama to see a bump in approval from the flurry of legislation Congress passed prior to the Christmas recess,” Ms. Saad says. Year-end Congressional action included a bipartisan agreement to extend Bush-era tax cuts, repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Senate ratification of the strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, and passage of a major food safety bill.

At a December 22 press conference, Mr. Obama called the flurry of legislative action in the lame duck session of Congress, “a season of progress for the American people.”

The troubling political news for Obama extends beyond his approval rating. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released Wednesday revealed a steady slide in the portion of American voters who hoped the president’s policies would succeed. In March, some 86 percent of voters were rooting for the president’s policies. In the December 17-19 period, only 61 percent said they wanted Mr. Obama’s policies to succeed.

And optimism about the success of Mr. Obama’s policies has also slipped. In March, some 64 percent of voters thought it more likely that Mr. Obama’s policies would succeed than fail. In December, only 44 percent were betting on success.

The vacationing president can take some comfort in the that fact his ratings at the end of two years in office are higher than where Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan stood with voters at the same point in their presidencies. Clinton stood at 40 percent, Reagan at 43 percent. But Obama’s end of the second year ratings are lower than Jimmy Carter’s (51 percent), George H.W. Bush (63 percent), and George W. Bush (61 percent.)

The mixed political news may be one reason the Obamas have twice extended their stay in Honolulu’s upscale Kailua neighborhood. The family was originally slated to leave Hawaii on New Year’s Day. Their departure was first moved to January 2, and on Wednesday was shifted to late in the evening of January 3. That will put the First Family back at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, January 4.

"After the extended lame duck and five-day delay of his trip here, he's just trying to squeeze in more time with his family before returning to Washington," Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters in Hawaii.

According to the Associated Press, the rescheduled departure means Malia and Sasha Obama will miss at least two days of school. Classes resume at the their private school – Sidwell Friends – on Monday.

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