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On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama’s Re-Election Bid

12.14.10

Despite being still two years away from the next general election, pollsters can’t help but read into their findings to determine that President Obama may be in danger of losing his re-election bid.

A new McClatchy/Marist poll finds that Obama has the lowest approval ratings of his presidency thus far: 42 percent.  And while it might seem low compared to the relatively high levels he was at, it’s not the travesty that should be making headline news. (It’s worthwhile to note that this poll has a history of showing a roughly 4-point lower approval rate across the board for Obama than the corresponding Gallup poll — meaning that, like any survey or poll, it’s best to be used as a very rough estimate at best.)

To put the number into context, if we look at the Gallup poll history (I couldn’t find an easily accessible history of the McClatchy/Marist polls) of President Clinton’s approval rating at the same relative time — December of his second year in office — you’ll find that he had the exact same percentage of those polled approving of his job: 42 percent.

Also, let’s look at today’s political climate to see why he would’ve taken a 9-point dip: he just supported a massive tax cut for the rich, so it’s no surprise that he’d take a hit from liberals.

And the stats support this:

Among self-described liberals, his approval rating has dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent since November.

There’s your explanation.

What is telling, though, is that he didn’t receive any uptick from Independents despite his centrist stance on the tax cut package.

It could be a few reasons:

  1. He’s already lost the Independents, who think that he’s too left-wing for their tastes no matter what he does.
  2. Independents aren’t as quick to switch their feelings as the liberals, who responded to the tax cut deal with vicious disagreement.
  3. Independents like the move – hence why their approval didn’t drop – but, are concerned about the debt and want to see what he does with that policy before increasing their approval.
  4. Polls are inaccurate at best; misleading at worst so why are we even bothering to dissect this?

Either way, it’s much too soon to be worrying about the 2012 election as far as polls are concerned.  Look at what’s happened in the past two years already — Obama went from sky-high approval ratings to steady, middle-of-the-road approval ratings that were comparable for other recent presidents who were re-elected (Clinton, Reagan) for most of 2010 until the noticeable dip now, mostly to do with unhappy liberals who are furious at cutting taxes for the rich.

That sting will wear off, especially in two years with the prospect of a Huckabee, Romney, Gingrich, or a Palin running the country.  It’ll most likely wear off sooner than that if DADT gets repealed anytime soon, too.  There’s also the chance that Obama goes down the debt-reduction route — which might shore up some Independent support, but could lose even more favor with Democrats if it cuts entitlements as heavily as it most likely will have to in order to change the course of our spending.  And, I highly doubt that even if he were to support something like the Bowles/Simpson plan he’d be able to win over any Republicans.

But no matter what happens between now and then, faced with the alternative, the Democrats will support him.  Just like the overwhelming majority of Republicans won’t find themselves supporting Obama in 2012, vice versa for the Democrats.  Even if he’s not their favorite option, he’ll be the lesser of two evils.

Which means it comes down to the Independents again.  Making this poll — and probably all others until we get much closer to the election and see how all of the uncertainties of the future play out — pointless and only good for keeping pollsters employed and pundits talking.

And me blogging.

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6 comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Mason, Ryan Mason. Ryan Mason said: On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama's Re-Election Bid: http://ow.ly/3pcbK […]


  2. Your second-to-last sentence very neatly sums up the point of polls. They spawn hours of pointless analysis that is sold as “news”.


    • Yup. Polls are so pointless. I can’t stand when people point to them as if they’re definitive prove of anything other than those people who were polled (whoever they were) came to those conclusions on that specific day and time. That’s it. To read much else into it is imposing your own thoughts into the equation.


  3. […] On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama’s Re-Election Bid (masonryan.wordpress.com) […]


  4. […] On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama’s Re-Election Bid (masonryan.wordpress.com) […]


  5. I do not care about the polls, but I can only hope for all of the world that this will be the last 2 years of Obama, I am shocked that he has any supporters at all.



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