Enthusiasm about voting in the midterm elections fell, especially among Democrats. Just 35 percent of Democrats say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," the lowest level in more than a decade and 18 percentage points below that of Republicans.
"When a guy who came in promoted by his followers as the first Superman president turns out to be not able to fly, I think some of his supporters feel let down," GOP pollster Glen Bolger said.
"Every minute he and others in his administration are spending on the oil spill, it's time that they aren't able to devote to other issues that they prefer to be dealing with," he said.
There is significant support for Congress to act on other fronts. A majority of respondents support passage of legislation this year to create jobs, reduce global warming and expand financial regulations.
Obama devoted the final quarter of his speech to push for an energy bill, which has passed the House but been stalled in the Senate. He argued that the spill demonstrated the need for the country to pursue alternative energy sources and reduce its dependence on oil, but he didn't outline any new specifics for a compromise bill or outline a course to pass it.
GOP leaders dismissed his pitch. Texas Sen. John Cornyn accused the president of trying "to use this crisis to force a job-killing energy tax on the American people."
Obama's speech was direct and determined, but it was less than the commanding rallying cry that the elder President Bush made from the Oval Office when he announced the launch of the first Gulf War or the compassionate tone President Reagan struck from the setting after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in air.
"It remains to be seen whether this is a kind of environmental 9/11, where the country fundamentally shifts gears and decides we have to do something different," says Matt Bennett of the moderate think tank Third Way. "Nothing concentrates the mind like the pictures people are seeing of this devastation."