Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Look, Barack Obama's approval ratings are not exactly secret. There are lots of places to go for them...I mostly these days just follow Gallup's daily track, which is right there on their home page, right at the top. When I want something a little more accurate for some reason, I go to the good folks at Pollster for their poll-of-poll average, which can conveniently be ordered with or without Rassmussen.

So why are so many people convinced that Obama's polling numbers -- 42% per both Gallup and Pollster today, by the way -- have been plunging? Down a tick, sure. Low enough to worry about for him as far as re-election, certainly. But he's barely below where he was last August, and perhaps 3-5 points at best below where he's been most of the year, with the brief exception of the bin Laden bump in the spring.

Perhaps it's one of my cranky days...I don't know. What set me off this time (and it's been building for a couple of weeks now, since I think Maureen Dowd took the "plunge" a while back, although I can't find it right now), was Obama fan Andrew Sullivan -- who frequently runs the Pollster numbers on his blog -- referring to events "which have taken a toll on his ratings." I just don't see it. The economy hasn't improved, unemployment stays high...and Obama is back to where he was last August, or at least close to it. It's not really Sullivan, though, because that's not all that bad; it's all those "drops" and, yes, "plunges."

I know, part of this is the insane polling convention that if you commission a poll you compare the results to the last one that you ran, even if it was months ago, and not to the current consensus. But still, it just isn't happening. What has characterized Barack Obama's approval ratings since about September 2009 has been stability with very gradual deterioration over time. Certainly not a "plunge" at any point beyond summer 2009. That summer, if I recall correctly up until mid-August, yes. Since? Nope.

Yes, it was worth noting when he slipped (in Gallup) below 40% for the first time. Yes, it's fair enough to call his ratings a problem. But there ain't no plunge here.


  1. This is similar to all the stories today about Americans thinking that over half of government spending is wasted. This is a 51% number which compares to the previous number of 50% and to the all time best number of 40%.

  2. Yes, since July 1st, Obama's poll numbers have plunged.

    Yes, they were in the garbage in the run up to last November's shellacking, but they'd pulled up solidly after he signed off on the Bush Tax Cut extensions last December. Then they headed back down, until Osama got double-tapped.

    But then, early this Summer, Obama decided to play poker and threaten anybody daring to call his bluff. I guess he's never played poker, and his inexperience has cost him severely, and his numbers have plunged. He's losing on policy, and his base is dispirited. That's why his numbers have fallen.

    And quite rightly, the Left are worried about it. Bush could win reelection at Gallup 48. Given his turnout model, Obama really can't do that, imo, meaning he's been flirting with numbers nearly 15 points below where they need to be to achieve his reelection. Like Carville says, it's time to panic.

  3. Anonymous, the data isn't secret. Rasmussen on 7/2-6 had Obama at 48 approve/50 disapprove. Its most recent poll has Obama at 46/52. Are you seriously claiming that two points is a plunge? If so, I have some turtleneck angora sweaters that you'd probably like for their plunging necklines.

  4. Gallup is the gold standard for presidential approval. The others are a nice indicator at times (although I get a kick out of the Left's on again, off again Rasmussen jag!)... but Gallup is the gold standard.

    Gallup is an ugly story for Obama. He's plunged precipitously since the end of June. And actually, it started in the end of May. This guy is still in freefall, and it's unclear if there's anything that will stem that freefall.

  5. Anon (the one who argues for a plunge):

    You want plunge? How about W's approval from about month 9 of his presidency on?

    My point is: you're comparing Obama right after bin Laden to now. That's stacking the deck. You have to compare Obama BEFORE bin Laden to now. The Gallup #s I'm seeing say he was bouncing from 42-45 over most of April, and now he's at 39-42 in August/September.

    That is not a plunge. That is lower, but only slightly. And the reason is patently obvious: the economy is bad. That's the only reason. Every month that goes by, this becomes more Obama's economy and less Bush's. And that hurts. At this point, I don't think Obama is a good shot for reelection, but it won't be because of any rejection of his socialistic policies by the good people of America, right, left and center. It will be because the economy sucks. THAT IS ALL.

  6. The question is it a plunge or not depends on your reference point. If you take this May as you comparison, then yes this President has plunged. If you compare to Fall of last year, you would only see a slight drop.
    That said, is it really material to debate rhetoric and not think of the trend of this numbers? Plunge or no plunge a President who is treading at 40% approval faces a Sisyphean endeavor.

  7. Note from the management...I just zapped a comment as span because of the link in the author name. I do that sort of thing all the time, but usually the content is fully non-germane; this one was a closer call, but it wasn't quite on topic and as I said the link pushed it into the span category for me. Just wanted to post a note because if anyone saw it and noticed it disappeared I don't want anyone to think it was for content or, certainly, for point of view.

  8. Gallup July 8-10: 45% approve/46% disapprove.

    Gallup Sept 17-19: 42% approve/50% disapprove.

    The polls have a +/- 3% margin of error. Change within the margin of error is not a "plunge," unless you're not terribly bright.

  9. unless you're not terribly bright... or have an agenda.

  10. My JB, you are cranky!

    Look, I know narrative isn't really politics. But look at it from the point of information. There are no high information voters. There are less than 50 people that know what really happens in the White House everyday, and none of them work for a news organization. Or the press office. We're all just jousting at clouds, and at some point you start telling stories based on very incompete data.

    Which is why Suskind is such a killer; you've had two years of narrative about Obama being an naive week fool, and now you've got the best hard evidence to date.

  11. Look, I understand that the hardcore lefties are determined to deflect any potential embarrassment for Obama... I get that.

    But the numbers don't lie, including the ones that Mr. Bernstein has posted in this post... composite polling numbers. Obama's approval plunged, right at the first of June, as he was yammering that nobody better dare call his bluff.

    He got called, lost, and now the Independents and Mainstream of the country see him for what he is, and his base is dispirited as a result of both the loss and the weakness shown. That's why his numbers have plunged.

    The economy sucked before he started playing poker, and it sucks now. The economy has nothing to do with this plunge... it's his horrible poker playing and horrible political acumen. Nobody blames Obama for the economy... even now. They do blame him for what he's doing about the economy, however. Yes, you lefties are delirious with joy over what he's done... but the mainstream of the country isn't... not at all. Unless this guy changes course... he's a dead man walking.

    The data don't lie... it's right where Mr. Bernstein linked you:


  12. Listen, you lefties are eventually going to have to learn some hard lessons here. You all got annihilated last November for what Pelosi and Obama brought on. November 2012 is shaping up much the same way.

    Eventually, you're going to have to change course. It's obvious. Either that, or take another massive shellacking.

    Not only do you all have to panic, but you have to get through the panic stage and start doing something intelligent. Yammering that there's no problem is the very last thing required here... and will be the quickest ticket to the next shellacking.

  13. Amazing, watching hysterics yell that the people responding to them with actual numbers are the ones who need to panic, isn't it?


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