JONATHAN COHN APRIL 19, 2011
Greg Sargent sifts through the poll numbers and spots a paradox. Independent voters support taxing the rich and oppose cuts to Medicare or Medicaid: In other words, they like the same policies that President Obama has endorsed in his deficit reduction proposal. But asked about Obama directly, only 28 percent of respondents approve of Obama's handling of the deficit while 68 oppose.
What gives? Kevin Drum has a theory:
This will probably satisfy no one, but I think the answer is pretty simple. First: the vast, vast majority of independents don't really have any idea what Obama's plan to handle the deficit is. They just know that (a) the deficit is high and (b) Obama is president. Beyond that, there are kids to get to school, laundry to be done, bosses to be pleased, and leaky faucets to be fixed. The details of the deficit debate are just a bit of partisan background noise that they haven't really parsed yet.
Second: the economy still sucks. Unemployment is high, wages are stagnant, housing prices are dropping, friends and neighbors are having trouble making ends meet, and taxes are due. So approval of everything Obama related is down.
I realize that these two things are sort of an all-purpose explanation for everything.
Yes, it's an all-purpose explanation for everything. But it happens to work. Most people don't have time to follow politics that closely. To the extent they form opinions on specific policy questions, they take their cues from other sources. And disinterested, impartial sources are increasingly difficult to find.