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RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

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Another Look at Obama's Job Approval

If you are looking for a good snapshot of where President Obama's job approval is right now, you cannot do better than the RealClearPolitics average. It's intuitive, straightforward, and indispensable.

Another way to look at Obama's job approval is to examine the trend line for each pollster. This can offer a way to control for their "house effects." The following chart does that by looking at the monthly average of eight major media pollsters (Fox, CBS, CNN, Ipsos, Pew, NBC, ABC, and AP).

Obama Job Approval.jpg

A few observations are in order:

1. By separating the pollsters from one another, we can see the various house effects. For instance, CBS and ABC are the most favorable polls to Obama while Fox and NBC tend to be the least. AP and CNN are the "bounciest." Some months, they are above the average. Other months, they are below.

2. Obama's job approval slid precipitously from July through August. This coincides with the heating up of the health care debate. This trajectory is consistent across all eight pollsters.

3. The President rebounded a bit from his August/September lows, but he is now at or near his lowest point in all of the polls except the (bouncy) AP poll, which had him much lower in September than the other polls. This chart makes that clear:

Obama High and Low.jpg

4. The polls generally find Obama's overall job approval higher than his approval on various issues. For instance, these are the results of the latest ABC News/WaPo poll:

ABC News:WaPo Issues.jpg

One can't help but wonder if a legislative success on the health care package will result in a further decline in the President's job approval rating.

5. What will be interesting to watch next year is whether the President's job approval slides further as the campaign begins in earnest. Will the Republican argument against Obama and the Democrats - once it hits the airwaves - damage the President's standing further? It is possible. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both suffered about 8-point declines in their job approval ratings from January to November of their first midterm years. [Obama is about where both Presidents were at this point in their terms, a little behind Reagan and a bit ahead of Clinton.] George W. Bush's net approval dropped 36 points in 2002; of course, it was very high after 9/11. Also regarding Bush 43, when the Democratic campaign against him heated up in early 2004, his net job approval slid 13 points from the first of the year to the beginning of the summer.

Will the Republican argument against Obama push some voters who disapprove of Obama on specific issues into overall disapproval? Will it push some of those marginal approvers into disapprove/don't know?

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-Jay Cost