By Niall Stanage - 06/25/12 09:00 AM EDT
A clear majority of likely voters believes President Obama has exercised his executive power inappropriately — particularly in blocking the release of documents relating to "Operation Fast and Furious," according to a new poll for The Hill.
But in a sign that the electorate’s frustration extends to Capitol Hill, voters by a significant margin also feel Congress has behaved in an obstructionist manner toward the president.
Amid the discontent over the behavior of both Obama and members of Congress, the poll found a strong preference among voters for a return to one-party rule in Washington.
The same panel, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), voted along party lines to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The Hill Poll found that likely voters disapproved by an almost 2-to-1 margin of Obama’s assertion of presidential power in the case. Overall, 56 percent of voters disapproved of his action, while only 29 percent approved.
Democrats have accused Issa of waging a partisan campaign that has no real purpose save for embarrassing Obama and Holder.
Issa has always denied his pursuit of Holder is politically driven.
“Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt,” he said last week. “Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work — that it is not only entitled to do, but obligated to do.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that “the assertion of privilege has to do with the absolute necessity of retaining the executive branch’s independence.”
The defense is not proving an easy sell with voters, particularly independents.
Sixty-one percent of independents said they disapproved of the president’s actions, and just 25 percent approved. Among Republicans, opposition to the president’s use of executive privilege was more entrenched at 78 percent.
Even 28 percent of Democrats, and 30 percent of self-identified liberals disapproved of Obama’s position.
The margins were slimmer, but still significant, when voters were asked whether they believed Obama had, in general, used executive power appropriately or inappropriately.
Fifty-two percent said Obama had used his executive authority inappropriately, while 43 percent backed the president.
Last month, Obama issued an executive order that will allow up to 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization.
Even as voters have doubts about the president’s actions on executive privilege, they empathize with him in his struggles with Congress.
By a 7-point margin — 48 percent to 41 percent — likely voters said Congress had been obstructionist toward the president. Independents sided with Obama by a margin of 13 points, 51 percent to 38 percent.
Giving added succor to the Obama reelection campaign, voters said, albeit by a narrow 43 percent to 38 percent margin, that he has been better than Congress at addressing the challenges facing the nation. While conservatives and liberals split in predictable ways, moderates favored Obama by a full 15 points.
Whether out of frustration with the political system in general, or Congress in particular, voters are currently displaying little appetite for divided government.
By a double-digit margin (44 percent to 31 percent), voters said they would prefer a single party to control both Congress and the White House. Voters who identified as
Republican and Democratic agreed on this point by almost identical margins.
The poll also reinforces the sense of a gender split in the nation’s politics.
Across the board, female voters were much more supportive of Obama than were male voters.
For example, women asserted by a 17-point margin that Congress has been obstructive of the president rather than acting as an appropriate check on the White House.
Men leaned the opposite way, by a 5-point margin.
The Hill Poll was conducted among 1,000 likely voters on June 21 by Pulse Opinion Research and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.