President Barack Obama's approval rating appears to be edging down.
A new CNN Poll of Polls, which averages the most recent non-partisan, live operator, national surveys on the president's approval rating, puts Obama's approval at 48 percent approval, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing in the White House. That 48 percent approval rating is down four points from a CNN Polls of Polls from mid-February which had the president at 52 percent.
But even while the president's approval appears to be dipping, his numbers are still way above where Congress, and the Republican Party, are registering in the minds of Americans.
The new average of the president's approval rating comes as another national poll indicates a decline in Obama's advantage over Republicans in Congress when it comes to who's to blame for the failure to avert the forced federal spending cuts. And according to that survey, by CBS News, a majority now say they will be affected by the cuts, known inside the Beltway as the sequester.
"Washington sure isn't making it easier," the president said Friday, speaking to reporters hours before the forced spending cuts started to take effect. And the new polling suggests that Americans agree and are taking some of their frustrations out on the president.
The new CNN Polls of Polls, compiled and released Tuesday, is an average of three surveys conducted in the last week and a half, leading up to and just after the start of the forced spending cuts. During this period there was an explosion of news regarding the forced spending cuts. The surveys included in the average are Gallup daily tracking poll (March 2-4); Fox News (Feb. 25-27) and NBC News/Wall Street Journal (Feb. 21-24).
The CNN Poll of Polls from mid-February came during a period when there were less headlines regarding the forced spending cuts. The poll averaged four mostly different surveys: Gallup daily tracking poll (Feb. 17-20); Bloomberg (Feb. 15-18); Pew Research/USA Today (Feb. 13-18); and American Research Group (Feb. 17-20).
So why the drop?
It appears to be mostly from Gallup's Daily Tracking Poll, which had the president at or slightly above 50 percent from mid-January until this past weekend, when his numbers dropped four points in one day (right as the force spending cuts took affect). Gallup's latest number has the president's approval rating slightly rebounding to 49 percent. The new CNN Poll of Poll average also includes Fox News (46 percent) and NBC/WSJ (50 percent). The previous CNN Poll of Polls from mid-February included earlier surveys which mostly had the president at or above 50 percent: Bloomberg (55 percent); Pew/USA Today (51 percent); Gallup Daily Tracking (51 percent) and ARG (49 percent).
"A few days ago, the Gallup tracking poll dropped four points overnight, and now is up three points in a single day. It's possible that this is due to dramatic fluctuations in public opinion, but it's more likely that it's the result of an inherent problem with all tracking polls," said CNN polling director Keating Holland.
"A close reading of the numbers suggests that Gallup got an extremely low number for Obama on March 1 that was extremely different than the one-night results on every other day of the week. If we ignore the three-day averages that include March 1, we see Obama at 51 percent late last week and at 49 percent now -- fairly stable results that suggest a small decline rather than the nosedive that appeared to be in progress only a day ago. This is a good indication of the pitfalls inherent in any tracking poll methodology."
The approval rating numbers came up in Tuesday's press briefing at the White House, with Press Secretary Jay Carney warning of "the folly of chasing one poll's results and making grand conclusions about it."
Besides the president's approval rating, the new CBS survey has an interesting finding on the blame game over the forced spending cuts. According to the poll, 38 percent said they would place more blame on the GOP in Congress over the failure to avert the cuts, with 33 percent saying they'd point more fingers at the president and Democrats in Congress, and nearly one in five saying both sides deserve equal blame. The president's five point advantage over congressional Republicans on the blame game is down from a 13-point advantage he held in a Pew Research Center/Washington Post survey conducted late last month.
The new CBS poll also indicates that a majority (53 percent) say they'll be affected by the forced spending cuts. That level is higher than in previous surveys from other organizations.
While the president's poll numbers are edging down, he would still have a long way to go to be in the company of Congress. The approval rating for Congress was in the midteens in national surveys from Gallup, CBS, and Fox conducted last month. And the approval ratings for Republicans in Congress are about 10-15 points lower than their Democratic counterparts.
And a recent Pew Research Center poll indicated that a majority of Americans said the GOP was out of touch and too extreme in its positions.