President Barack Obama's approval rating remains low in Nevada despite a recent high-profile visit, according to a new poll that suggests state residents are taking a harsher view of the president than elsewhere in the country.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal survey found that 39 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Obama, up from 34 percent in a January poll but down from a high of 55 percent in May . His unfavorable rating stayed the same as in January, 46 percent.
In national polls, the president's job approval rating ranges from 46 percent to 50 percent, while his disapproval rating is in the low to mid-40s.
Obama's remarks singling out Las Vegas as a place where you shouldn't blow your money, and the ensuing furor, probably hurt him in the state, said Brad Coker, a managing partner in Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey.
In February 2009, Obama said, "You can't take a trip to Las Vegas or down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime." The remark made in Elkhart, Ind., was aimed at bailout-accepting bankers who had been accused of cavorting in Las Vegas as their companies collapsed. And on Feb. 2 of this year, he told an audience in Nashua, N.H., "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."
His Feb. 18-19 Nevada visit probably helped push his numbers back up slightly, but overall his image is still tarnished, Coker said.
"We're seeing it around the country," Coker said. "He's losing voters on health care and the fact that the economy isn't getting any better, and there's a couple of extra points for him trashing Nevada."
Fifteen percent of those polled were neutral on the president's job performance.
The steady decline in Obama's job approval rating has implications for Democrats in an election year. His 2008 candidacy buoyed Democratic contenders in Nevada and across the nation, and new voters registered in droves to cast ballots for him.
"He doesn't have the political coattails that he demonstrated when he was elected, so it's going to be harder for endangered Democrats," Coker said, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, both Nevada Democrats. "It's going to make life tougher."
Both Reid and Titus are looking at contentious re-election bids, and nationally Democrats will have to fight to hold on to majorities in the House and Senate.
Almost half of poll respondents felt Obama's actions as president have hurt Nevada's economy, and 51 percent said his policies rely too much on government to solve the nation's problems.
"This is a statement about his policies," Coker said. "It's sort of inferred ... that his solutions are too government-based."
Even so, 57 percent of respondents supported the allocation of $100 million in stimulus money to help people on the edge of losing their homes to foreclosure. Those results skewed heavily along party lines: 82 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents supported the funding, but just 29 percent of Republicans felt the same way.
There wasn't much faith that the funding will do much. Fifty-three percent of those polled were either not too confident or not at all confident that the funding would work.
"They're not holding their breath that this is the magic bullet," Coker said, although people are OK with the state getting the funds. "It's like, if someone's going to give you a hundred-dollar bill for your birthday, and you hate their guts, are you still going to take the hundred-dollar bill? "
The statewide telephone poll of 625 registered Nevada voters was taken Feb. 22-24. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning there is a 95 percent chance that a survey of the entire state population would yield results within that range.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or 702-229-6435.