HARRISBURG -- President Obama is feeling the fallout from the protracted debate over the national debt.
More than half of Pennsylvania voters now disapprove of the way the president is handling his job, while in February, the majority supported him, according to a poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University.
But the president is still more popular than either Republicans or Democrats in Congress, with 44 percent of voters saying he acted more responsibly during the debate than lawmakers did.
Still, by a margin of 52 to 42 percent, voters say Obama does not deserve to be reelected.
“Any good poll is a snapshot of public opinion, and this survey shows President Barack Obama at a low point just before a major announcement on the national debt limit, after a long and bitter debate,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Malloy said polls taken after the debt debate would likely be a stronger indication of the overall trend of support for the president.
“The way we’re looking at this is, is this real or fleeting?” Malloy said. “The poll was taken at a peak of the most raucous bloodfest in Washington in a long time. Everyone took a hit.”
Voters polled overwhelming (68 to 28 percent) disapproved of the job Republicans are doing in Congress. Democrats fared roughly the same (67 to 28 percent disapproval).
But the poll suggests the debt battle could set the stage for a competitive presidential race in 2012.
For the first time, a potential GOP rival pulled into a statistical tie with Obama in the next election.
In a potential matchup, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led Obama 44 percent to 42 percent, well within the poll’s margin of error of 2.7 percent, compared with June when Obama was ahead of Romney 47 percent to 40 percent.
Also within the margin of error in a head-to-head matchup with Obama is former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who had 43 percent as opposed to the president’s 45 percent.
Pennsylvania voters may not be pleased with members of Congress as a whole, but they support Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who is up for reelection in 2012.
The poll found voters approve (48 to 29 percent) of the job Casey is doing and say (47 to 33 percent) he deserves to be reelected. Casey leads an unnamed Republican 47 to 35 percent.
Malloy said Casey’s high poll numbers might be attributed to the fact that he has no GOP opponent in 2012 yet and the fact that he appeared to “stay above the fray” in the debt debate.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) also had high approval ratings among Pennsylvania voters, who said (44 to 31 percent) they liked the way he was doing his job.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,358 registered voters between July 25 and 31 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Voters were called using landlines and cellphones.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or awordenphillynews.com.