We’ve noted over the last few days that rising gas price could pose a problem for President Barack Obama, whose energy policy has left a lot to be desired. This was emphasized by a recent poll from Gallup showing that 65% of Americans held Obama partly responsible for higher gas prices.
But a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that Obama’s approval ratings have gone down as gas has gone up, further driving home the vulnerability on the issue:
Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement, and they highlight the political sensitivity of rising gas prices.
Gas prices are a main culprit: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard. Just 26 percent approve of his work on the issue, his lowest rating in the poll. Most Americans say higher prices are already taking a toll on family finances, and nearly half say they think that prices will continue to rise, and stay high.
The Washington Post poll also showed that Obama’s potential counterparts in the fall are catching up with him. According to the poll, Romney is now leading Obama among registered voters, 49-47. And over over at The Fix, Aaron Blake points out that high gas prices have caused the party in power to struggle during an election year, which is an ominous sign for Obama and Democrats:
The president’s party has lost control of the presidency in three of the last four elections in which gas prices have risen significantly during his time in office.
And over the last 36 years, the president’s party has never made significant gains in Congress in an election year in which the price of gas rose significantly. More often than not, it has lost double-digit seats.
A Fix review of gas price data since 1976 shows a solid pattern of the president’s party suffering when gas prices rise.
Gas prices increased by at least 50 cents per gallon in 1980, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Only in 2004 did the president’s party retain the White House. (Gas prices as an issue was somewhat on the back burner in 2004 because of the Iraq War and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)
The picture is even clearer on the congressional front.
Of the nine elections since 1978 in which the price of gas rose in the actual election year, the president’s party lost seats in six of them — with the average loss at 24 seats.
What’s more, in the three elections in which gas prices rose but the president’s party gained seats, the party in power never gained more than three seats, which is essentially a push in the 435-member House.
There isn’t much room for Republicans to make a significant number of gains in the upcoming election. Democrats, however, have been saying for months that the House is in play and that they would keep control of the Senate. But if gas continues to rise as expected into the summer, the fall could be very rough for them.