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The liberal disaffection myth

President Obama’s base has abandoned him – so goes the conventional Beltway wisdom.

The problem with this accepted narrative: There’s no data to back this up, according to the most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey, which was conducted in late August, was abysmal for the president, save for his head-to-head match ups with GOP presidential contenders. But it also included these numbers:

-- By an 81%-14% margin, Democrats approved of his job performance, essentially unchanged from his 82%-14% score in July.

-- Among liberals, it was 74%-21% -- exactly the same numbers from July.

-- What about African Americans? Over the past month, Rep. Maxine Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus – in addition to outspoken Princeton’s Cornell West and talk-show host Tavis Smiley -- have criticized the president for not focusing on African-American unemployment. Despite apparent outrage at the president at one of the CBC’s town halls in Detroit, which was replayed for multiple days on cable, 92% of black respondents said they approved of Obama’s job with 5% disapproving. That’s actually up from July, when his approval with the group stood at 83%-13%.

-- And among Hispanics, his approval stands at 57%-38%, up from his 45%-48% score in July.

Going further, looking at intensity in President Obama’s favorability rating, which is sometimes called the “feeling thermometer,” it indicates very slight slippage among Democrats and liberals (and slightly more so among liberals). But it’s very minor. Here are the numbers:

-- In June, the last time the NBC/WSJ poll measured fav/unfav, 51% of Democrats viewed President Obama “very positive.” In August, it was down to 47%. Those voters appeared to move into the “somewhat positive” category (that went up from 31% to 35%).

-- Among liberals, the president’s “very positive” rating was essentially the same, going from 46% to 47%. His “somewhat positive” score among liberals went down six points from 31% to 25%. And his negative ratings went up -- from 12% overall (4% somewhat, 8% very) to 16% overall (8% somewhat, 8% very).

Obama has a host of problems, with a lot of different groups. But, based on the data, liberals and Democrats are not it.

His biggest problem has been -- and continues to be -- with independents. His rating dropped with the group from a low 41% in July to 37% in August.

Yes, intensity with the base matters -- and if Obama can’t get them fired up, then he’s in jeopardy. But their attitudes about his presidency are the least of his worries.

*** UPDATE *** I got a question (or rather what someone thought was a statement of fact, trying to say that the "myth" was my post) on Twitter about where liberal/Democratic approval of the president was a year ago, rather than a month ago. That's a fair thing to look at. So I went back and checked the NBC/WSJ poll's crosstabs from August of last year, and here's what I found:

According to NBC/WSJ poll Aug 5-9, 2010, the president's approval:

- Among liberals was 78%/18%. Now, it's 74%/21%.

- Among Democrats, it was 82%/13%. Now -- 82%/14%.

Essentially unchanged.