Washington — Mired in economic worry, Americans are growing gloomier about where the country is headed and how President Barack Obama is leading it. Opinions of the economy are at the lowest of the year as high gas prices, anemic hiring and financial turmoil abroad shake a nation’s confidence.
Obama has hit new highs he’d like to avoid — in public disapproval over his handling of the economy in general and unemployment in particular — according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. In addition, more disapprove of his handling of health care and the federal budget deficit than in the past.
The poll shows that four out of five people now believe the economy is in poor shape. And, separately, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that some causes of the slowdown, including a depressed housing market, could persist into next year. Bernanke said the Fed believes growth will pick up going into 2012 but at a slower pace than expected.
How slow is a matter of high interest at the White House. A little more than 16 months before the November 2012 election, the public is split on whether the president deserves a second term.
For the first time this year in AP-GfK polling, respondents who say Obama deserves re-election have fallen below 50 percent into a virtual split of 48-47 in favor, a demanding challenge for him. Economic concern has quickly stripped away the gloss he briefly gained after the death of Osama bin Laden.
Obama’s re-election team is no doubt concerned as well. The president has been traveling every week for months to campaign battleground states to promote job initiatives. He acknowledges the sluggishness of the recovery, illustrated by May’s uptick in unemployment.
The price of gasoline at the pump has declined a bit recently though it is still nearly 90 cents higher on average than a year ago. White House officials are also monitoring the precarious fiscal situation in Greece where a default by the government could send damaging financial tremors across world markets.
Obama’s overall approval rating fell to 52 percent in the new poll, in line with his ratings before the daring raid in Pakistan by U.S. commandos last month that killed bin Laden.