To say the results of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll are confusing is an understatement. I find myself wanting to ask the respondents, “What in the hell are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”
Gary Langer, from Langer Research Associates who conducted the poll, analyzed the results reported by ABC News Tuesday.
Overall, while Americans “sharply reject special scrutiny of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, suspect an administration cover-up of the Benghazi incident and express substantial distrust of the federal government more generally,” President Obama still holds a firm 51 percent approval rating, which is higher than George W. Bush’s 41 percent at the same period in his second term.
How in the world? Well, because “he’s aided by accelerating economic optimism as well as by comparison with the much less-popular Republicans in Congress,” Langer said of the poll results.
On the issue of the IRS targeting of conservative political groups, 74 percent of Americans say the IRS’s actions were “inappropriate,” with 56 percent saying they view it as a “deliberate attempt to harass conservative organizations, not a mere administrative error.”
Moving on to whether the Obama administration is attempting to cover up the events of the Benghazi terrorist attack, the majority, 55 percent, suspect yes, indeed.
Not surprisingly, 71 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Independents view the government as more of a threat to, than protective, of their individual rights. The reverse holds true for 60 percent of Democrats who see government as a protector of rights. Overall, though, 54 percent view the government as “more threatening to individual rights.”
So, how can a majority of people still give Obama a pass and approve his job performance in light of all of this scandal and ineptitude?
On that score, 56 percent of Americans now say the economy is beginning to recover, up by a dramatic 20 percentage points in the past year and a half, to the most since ABC and the Post first asked the question in late 2009. The change is broadly based, but strongest among financially better-off adults
Additionally, more than half, 53 percent, now say they’re optimistic about the economy’s prospects in the year ahead, a majority for the first time in four years. (A steadier majority, two- thirds, expresses optimism about their own finances.)
These economic views, as noted, are closely related to political sentiment; Obama’s rating is far higher among those who see economic gains.
Obama has a larger advantage in a more general question: Fifty-one percent of Americans say he is “mainly concentrating on things that are important to you personally.” That’s 8 points more than say the same about the Democrats in Congress – and 18 points more than say so about the Republicans.
So, even though Obama himself said “the buck stops with him,” as long as the economy shows overdue signs of improvement and the GOP is viewed as evil and bad, the president can sit pretty while the country is ablaze in scandal after scandal under his administration.