WASHINGTON, D.C. -- By a six-point margin, more Americans disapprove than approve of President Barack Obama's handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The president's 40% approval rating on the oil spill trails his overall job approval rating by seven points.
The findings are from Gallup Daily tracking conducted June 5-6, 2010. Obama's overall job approval rating in the Gallup Daily three-day rolling average ending June 6 was 47%, matching the Gallup Daily weekly aggregate for May 31-June 6. While the 47% weekly average for Obama technically marks the second-lowest average of his administration, it is similar to his weekly ratings since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.
Although Democrats are in both cases the most approving and Republicans the least approving, Democrats' approval on the oil spill falls off the most: 13 percentage points, compared with 8 points among independents. In contrast, Republicans are 4 percentage points more positive about Obama's handling of the oil spill than about his overall job performance -- though both of their ratings are very low.
Two weeks ago, 53% of Americans called Obama's efforts in responding to the spill "very poor" or "poor," while 60% said the same about the federal government more broadly and 73% about BP. As the oil spill has continued, so has the criticism that Obama has not done enough to mitigate the disaster. The White House has been working aggressively to address such criticism, sending Obama to the region several times and attempting to convey command of the situation. However, with oil still spewing from the Deepwater Horizon drilling site, the public has been left watching and waiting for better news for nearly seven weeks. Gallup has not yet asked a second time about Obama's, the federal government's, and BP's handling of the spill, and the current survey marks the first time Gallup has measured "approval" of Obama's handling of it.
In the current survey, Americans in the South and Midwest are less approving of Obama's handling of the spill than are those in the West and East. Those in all regions show slightly less approval of Obama's response to the spill than they do of the overall job he is doing as president, with the smallest difference (four points) in the East and the largest (eight points) in the West.
Overall, the new Gallup poll findings provide bad news and good news for the Obama administration. On one hand, more Americans disapprove than approve of Obama's handling of the spill and fewer approve of Obama on the spill than approve of his overall job performance. At the same time, the gap between approval and disapproval of Obama on the spill is neither vast nor, in theory, insurmountable. Further, Obama's overall job approval rating, while nearly the lowest of his administration, is not materially different than it was when the disaster began.
The large unknown is what happens next. It is unclear how much longer oil will continue to spew into the Gulf or how significant the long-term economic or environmental impact will be. Both the aftermath of the spill and environmental protection more broadly will no doubt continue to be prominent issues through the remainder of Obama's first term -- with the potential to affect his approval ratings going forward either positively or negatively.
Oil spill results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 5-6, 2010, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,035 adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit dial sampling. Overall approval results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 4-6, 2010, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,535 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit dial sampling.
For results based on each total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted on the basis of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone only status, cell phone mostly status and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
Question(s) were asked of a random half-sample on two nights' of the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.