Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Catch of the Day

Andrew Sullivan sees that Barack Obama's approval ratings have ticked up a bit to 50% (per Gallup), and while he responds with appropriate caution, he also notes:
Doing eleven points better in the Gallup poll at this point in his first term than the Gipper was. More data here. Skepticism warranted on the recent bump up - but Obama has now been trending above Reagan's numbers for months now.
Bill Clinton ended 1994 at 40%.  Which, of course, means practically nothing for re-election.  There's plenty of time for Obama to wind up with a Reagan-like cakewalk or a Carter-level debacle, or anything in between.  The key takeaway, as it has been all of 2010, is that Obama is probably doing a bit better than the economy alone would predict, and certainly isn't doing worse.  If the economy is better in 2011-2012 than it was in 2009-2010, and no major negative external events intervene, and he continues to do the other things he's doing that are working, he's likely to be comfortably re-elected -- but those are three huge questions. 

In the meantime, these numbers are worth paying attention to because Obama's popularity, or at least Washington perceptions of his popularity, will likely have at least some effect on the margins on whether Members of Congress, bureaucrats, interest group leaders, and others will be willing to do things that Obama wants.  If Obama was at 35%, Democratic Senators in marginal seats would be a lot less likely to fight whatever the Republican House does than they will if he's at 50%.  


  1. One good sign for Obama is that the economy is judged in relative, not absolute terms. It largely doesn't matter how good the economic situation is on election day, just if it's getting better or worse. As Reagan and FDR learned, an improving economy means the same thing for re-election as a good economy. Unemployment could be 8.5% on 11/6/12, but as long as it's recently declined, Obama should be in good shape.

  2. Another poll, from 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair shows that when it comes to the deficit, which the Republicans have insisted is the biggest is the Universe... when it comes to first steps to try to reduce it...

    61% favor tax raise on the rich
    20% favor cutting defense spending
    4% favor cutting Medicare
    3% favor cutting Social Security

    So it may have been a politically shrewd to reschedule this debate for 2012 when the GOP will be trying to block the first steps supported by over 80% of folks.

  3. It's worth noting that Obama's approval, before the recent bump, was about where Bush's was when he (narrowly) defeated Kerry in 2004.

  4. Context like that David Tomlin just gave is really interesting. It'd be nice to be able to get that from mainstream sources. Thanks!

  5. Agree -- and I recommend playing around at Gallup's presidential approval page. Good fun.


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