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Approval Margin Razor Thin

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doug_thompsonIs it time for a third party?

By Doug Thompson

President Barack Obama’s disapproval numbers are within one percentage point of his approval rating, Pollster.com shows. The Web site calculates an average from many polls. As I’ve said before, I think it’s more trustworthy than any individual poll.

The president’s narrow margin is probably not the real story, however. The important point is that the number of undecided voters is now barely above 5 percentage points. This compares to about 9 percent in August.

People have made up their minds about the new president, and a very, very large number of those who were uncommitted before don’t like the job he’s doing. Those approval/disapproval lines are going to cross. It won’t take long.

The big factor in this slide appears to be health care. A solid majority of those polled — 52.3 percent — disapprove of his handling of the issue. More drastically, only 40.8 percent approve. It would appear that the administration has not only stoked up a lot of opposition. Supporters appear very disappointed. He’s in-between. He’s perceived as weak by those who want reform and still a danger by those who don’t.

The president’s numbers on economic policy are downright rosy by comparison. His approval rating is lagging his disapproval rating by only 5.5 percentage points on that issue.

As for the generic “right direction/wrong track” poll question, little more than a third of people answering polls these days think the country’s on the right track — 36.6 percent. That’s not perceived as all Obama’s fault, I’m sure. The main thing people are mad at appears to be Congress.

A few weeks ago, more people identified themselves as Independents as Republicans. Than made lot of headlines. Well, according to Pollster.com, now more people identify themselves as people who are independent than as Democrats or Republicans. This is if you include all adults, such as those who aren’t registered to vote.

Among people who are registered to vote or are considered likely voters, GOP numbers are improving. They are within 4.6 percentage points of the Democrats.

The number of likely voters who remain independent is going downhill fast. That number has declined to 22.4 percent compared to 36 percent in late July.

So let’s state it plainly; People may be more and more disillusioned by politics. The people who remain, however, are the people who count. They are the ones who cast the ballots. And the people who count who declare themselves to be Republicans are now less than five percentage points behind the Democrats.

Barring a revolution or a credible third party, it doesn’t matter if only three people are left voting in any Congressional election: A Democrat, a Republican and an Independent. The Independent will decide the election. And right now, the president is shaking off Independents like a duck hunter’s dog shakes off water. Grand eloquence isn’t working any more.

The most telling political comment I’ve seen in a week comes off a blog by Glen Bolger and Jim Hobart of Public Opinion Strategies (blog.pos.org): “The American people are tired of rhetoric laced with hope and are now waiting for progress marked by results.”

Bingo. It should be noted that this great truth is still tempered by a lot of goodwill for the new president, which people still express. However, there is a difference between liking somebody or wishing him well and believing he’s actually taken charge of the situation.

Is it time for a third party?

Look, before somebody accuses me — again — of anti-Obama bias: I’d be very distressed if I liked the president and saw these numbers. That doesn’t change the numbers. I wouldn’t take that much comfort from these numbers if I was Republican, either. The bottom line is that the only reason people support either party is a lack of an acceptable alternative.

I’m working hard to resist drinking the old “It’s time for a third party” Kool-Aid, but this is as close to the time for such a thing as I’ve seen in many a day.

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