President Obama sailed into the White House on the wings of hope, but now a majority of Americans say they're doing worse now than before he arrived two years ago, according to Bloomberg National Poll results released Thursday.
According to the survey, 51% of respondents say their life has taken a turn for the worse (like Californian Michelle Litoff, pictured at right), versus the 35% who say things have improved. Those results dovetail into into the overall decline Obama has seen in his approval rating since he took office, which, according to the Daily Gallup poll, has fallen to the mid-40% range.
Even within the Democratic Party, half of survey respondents say they their situation has declined, which doesn't bode well for the Democratic president. Slightly more than 50% of Independents say they're worse off with Obama, and 60% of Republicans do, too, according to the Bloomberg poll.
Generating dissatisfaction among the masses is unemployment. For folks like Sara Cohn (pictured at left), a 50-year-old who lives in Berkeley, Calif., her job is a big worry. She's already feeling the demands of more work at her company, following previous layoffs there.
"I still have a job, and I think Obama is doing a good job considering what he was handed under the Bush administration, but my situation is probably a little worse," Cohn says. "It just seems there's more demands at work because of the layoffs."
In November, the unemployment rate hit 9.8% -- a seven-month high. And then there's Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's recent forecast that it could take another four to five years to get to a more normal unemployment rate of 5% to 6%.
Layoffs have also taken a toll on Michelle Litoff, a hairstylist who works at Today's Rave in Berkeley, Calif. Despite previous recessions, the 17-year-old business hasn't seen it this bad, and her financial outlook has worsened since Obama took office.
"People are losing their jobs and not coming in as frequently to get their hair cut or colored," says Litolff, a 43-year-old El Cerrito, Calif., resident. "They're taking longer to make appointments or wearing their hair in a ponytail."
Approximately 25% of Litoff's clients have extended the time between salon visits, and roughly another 5% have stopped coming to her shop altogether, she notes.
"I like Obama, but I think his hands are full. He inherited this mess," Litoff says. "The economy isn't much better now, and for a single mom with three kids it's been tough."
One group in Obama's camp is under-35-year-old voters, the majority of whom feel their situation has improved since he took office. This constituency, which played a big role in Obama's election, is at an age where typically they're entering the workforce and launching their careers. In other words, there's no where to go but up.
But even some retirees are sanguine. For instance, like Mike Bigbee (pictured at right), a 59-year-old former truck driver from Richmond, Calif., says his situation has improved slightly since Obama's election. Bigbee has four grown children, and his financial standing depends on that of his children.
"If they do well, I do well since they won't have to count on me," Bigbee says. He adds that he's just now recovering from a financial downturn, but he doesn't blame Obama for it. He, too, assigns the country's economic woes to Bush.
"This is from the Bush administration, and it's trickled down," Bigbee says.
Nonetheless, the majority of survey respondents feel their situation has declined since Obama has taken office. And it comes as no surprise that they feel the country is moving in the wrong direction.
According to the Bloomberg poll, 66% felt that was the case, up from 62% in an October Bloomberg poll. Results like these, however, don't necessarily sink Obama's chances for reelection.
Since the midterm elections, his approval rating has remained steady, despite his party losing the House majority and giving up Senate seats, according to the Gallup Daily poll. The Gallup folks note that most presidents whose parties took a beating in midterm elections often posted a decline in approval ratings after the elections through the end of the year. For example, Bill Clinton's job approval rating dropped four points in 1994 after the midterms, but he still won reelection two years later.
Obama watchers may want to keep a closer eye on his approval rating come June 2012. According to Gallup, the approval rating in the June before an election serves as a good indicator of things to come. But even George W. Bush, who had a 48% approval rating in June 2004, managed to win reelection despite falling out of favor with more than half of Americans. His performance was dismal compared to the previous five presidents before him, who managed to muster approval ratings of more than 50% when reelected.
If Obama can maintain his standing near 50% for the next two years, that could very well be enough to land him another four-year gig in the White House.