Been There, Done That

There’s been much discussion recently about President Obama’s high job approval and popularity, with most folks (wrongly) assuming his job approval numbers are extraordinarily high. So, it’s time to set the record straight…

It’s true, clearly people like Barack Obama, as the President enjoys very high personal ratings. In this month’s NBC/WSJ poll that we co-direct, President Obama posts a 68{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive rating (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very positive).

However, it is not true that his job approval ratings are unusually high. We simply have to look back at the last five presidents to understand that Obama’s approval rating is comparable to others during the first few weeks in office. In fact, President Carter enjoyed the highest approval ratings…and we all know how that ended up…

presidential-job-approval
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Further, as Duke grad Neil Newhouse points out in his “March Madness” posting about the mood of the country, much of this is being driven by the base, with Democrats giving Obama an 88{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} job approval rating.

POS has a long tradition of monitoring and comparing “right direction/wrong track” data and job approval ratings. A president’s average job approval is usually 17-20 points above the country’s right direction rating. Earlier in February one of our national polls showed that gap was at 36 points (25{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} right direction, 61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} job approval). This is not a sustainable range and we said at the time that two things could happen:

1) As “right direction” increases among Democrats, job approval stays in its current range;
…OR…
2) Obama’s job approval rating will decline by the end of the year to better mirror the country’s mood.

So far it seems like the first option is taking place with our recent NBC/WSJ poll showing a jump in right direction to 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} (mostly due to a 30-point jump among Democrats from last month) and job approval holding steady at 60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.

But, it’s still early days, March Madness still has to play out…and who knows how Duke’s performance is going to impact the mood, and more importantly, the President’s approval ratings…

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