The Hill Poll: Voter gloom over President Obama’s jobs, gas, debt policies

Half of likely voters expect the Supreme Court to strike down President Obama’s signature healthcare law, and strong majorities see other major policies coming from the White House making life more difficult for themselves and the country, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.

The poll indicated that 49 percent of likely voters said they expect a court ruling that is unfavorable to the Affordable Care Act, while just 29 percent think it will be upheld and 22 percent aren’t sure.

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On economic issues, 62 percent of voters say Obama’s policies will increase the debt, while 25 percent think they will cut it, and by a 48-percent-to-38-percent margin, voters believe those policies will increase joblessness rather than put people back to work.

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil. 

Voters’ wide-ranging pessimism comes as gasoline prices have risen sharply, which often dampens attitudes among U.S. voters toward those in power, and as opinions remain sharply divided on the president’s healthcare law.

The measure, on which the court will hear oral arguments later this month and is expected to rule in the summer, is not expected to fare well with the court’s conservatives, though experts say it is unlikely the entire law will be undone.

The results also run contrary to indications that the economy is recovering more quickly and to other recent surveys showing the public is increasingly optimistic about its improvement.

Notably, a Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 58 percent of voters had seen signs of economic progress. And a Washington Post/ABC News poll that concluded March 10 found that 49 percent think the economy is beginning to recover, compared with 36 percent in November.

The Hill Poll showed the starkest difference of opinion on Obama’s policies between white and black voters.

On every question, a majority or plurality of white voters said they expected Obama’s policies to fail — while a majority or plurality of black voters expect them to succeed.

• While 65 percent of whites said his policies would increase the debt, blacks by a 46-percent-to-39-percent margin said they would reduce it;

• While 61 percent of whites said they expect gas prices to increase because of Obama’s policies, blacks by 42 percent to 29 percent expect them to drop;

• While 50 percent of whites say unemployment will increase due to his policies, 72 percent of blacks say they think it will go down, and 

• While whites by a 47-percent-to-33-percent margin say Obama’s policies will make the United States more dependent on foreign oil imports, 68 percent of blacks say it will make the country less dependent.

There also is a slight gender gap between men and women, although both concluded that most of Obama’s policies would be counterproductive.

Sixty-five percent of men thought his administration’s policies would raise gasoline prices and debt, while 55 percent said they would increase dependence on foreign oil and 52 percent said they would increase joblessness.

While women agreed, more of them were willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. Fifty-nine percent thought the national debt would increase under Obama’s approach, while 52 percent felt the same way about gasoline prices.

But only by a 44-percent-to-42-percent margin — a result within the poll’s 3-point margin of error — did women say administration policies would increase unemployment. And by a 41-percent-to-38 percent margin, they said Obama’s policies would reduce dependence on imported oil.

The poll did not include questions about recent conflicts over the Obama administration’s birth-control coverage mandate, including comments by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that a young woman was a “slut” and a “prostitute” for supporting the policy in testimony before Congress.

Observers believe the conflict will strengthen opinions of Obama among women, who, polls show, already support him over possible Republican rivals.

Women remain crucial to Obama’s reelection, though they sided narrowly with Republicans in the 2010 midterm congressional election. His reelection campaign has been working to solidify their support as November nears.

Not surprisingly, self-identified Republicans were the harshest critics of Obama’s policies, with the most pessimism coming as GOP voters predicted increases in the federal debt (85 percent) and gas prices (81 percent).

Democrats disagreed across the board, saying in great numbers that Obama would make unemployment drop (72 percent) and U.S. dependence on foreign oil decrease (66 percent).

Of all the policies polled, Democrats were least likely to say with confidence that gas prices would decrease under Obama, with 42 percent saying they would and 31 percent saying they would not.

Responses from independent voters tended to mirror Republicans’ attitudes more than Democrats’.

Sixty-nine percent of independents predicted the federal debt would increase as a result of Obama’s presidency, and 61 percent predicted an increase in gas prices.

They also lacked confidence in Obama’s healthcare law, which remains unpopular: Fifty-two percent said the Supreme Court would strike it down, with 25 percent disagreeing.

The poll was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on March 15 among 1,000 likely voters and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Click here to view data from The Hill Poll.