Here at Public Opinion Strategies, it is axiomatic that a president’s job approval is held captive by the mood of the country. Between President Obama’s swearing in and early June, national right direction numbers ballooned from 28% up to 46% while his job approval hovered in the low 60s. Since early June, right direction numbers have dropped to 38% and his job approval to 57% (four-survey average).
This is the start of the Obama drop.
It’s the simplest of questions but also the most telling: “Do you think the country is headed in the right direction or is it off on the wrong track?” When Americans are optimistic and believe the country is heading in the right direction, they voice approval for the president. But when Americans are pessimistic, the president’s support takes a nose dive.
Here’s the rule: Right direction numbers are the leading indicator; they drop first and the president’s job approval soon follows.
A president’s job approval will poll a maximum of 17 points – often less – over the national right direction number. Need proof? In October of ‘06, just 26% of Americans believed the country was headed in the right direction and only 38% approved of President Bush. In October of ‘04, 41% of Americans believed the country was heading in the right direction and 49% approved of President Bush. The numbers go on and on.
This link is not new. In October of ‘98, right direction numbers were at 55% and Clinton’s job approval was 65%. In October, ‘96, the numbers were 42% and 56% respectively.
The bottom line is that this is gravity. And, no president can defy it for long.
Between June 23 and July 12, three-out-of-four national surveys featured on realclearpolitics.com had the national right direction numbers in the thirties, with an average of 38%; two-of-four had wrong track at 60% or higher, and a near-miss of 57% and an average of 57%.
Again, this is the leading indicator. Thirty-eight percent right direction numbers means President Obama will soon have a maximum job approval of 55% and sinking.
What caused it? Previous posts (More Misery Index) have detailed the rock-solid connection between the economy and the strength of the party in power. With consumer confidence sinking like a stone and the unemployment rate about to crest the double-digit mark, President Obama has taken ownership of America’s economic woes and the public is figuring it out.