Friday, August 28, 2009

Was Obama's approval ever that high?

For most of 2009 PPP and Gallup have evidently been polling two different countries. Our March poll had Barack Obama's national approval rating at 55%. Theirs at the same time had it at 62%. In April we were at 53%, they were at 63%. In May we were at 55%, they were at 65%. In June we were at 52% and they were at 61%. In July we were at 50%, they were at 60%.

Now, after showing Obama's approval ten points behind them all year, they're at 50% and we're actually at 52%, actually finding him slightly more popular.

How the heck do you explain that?

I'm pretty sure it's because people are more honest with automated polls than they are with live interviewers. I don't think Obama's approval rating was ever really as good with independents and especially Republicans as some polls were showing it. But I think folks were being more charitable to him in live interviews than their true feelings a) because they felt like they should pretend they were at least giving a new President a chance and b) because they were hearing all the time about how popular Obama is and let's face it, people don't want to be different.

We showed Obama's approval with Republicans at only 14% as far back as March, at a time when most other pollsters were showing it in the high 20s or even the 30s. We find it at basically the same place now- 16%- but now every other survey from the last three weeks that pollster.com has on its Republicans only chart also shows it lower than 20%.

It's a similar story with independents. In March we already had him polling in the low 40s with them, but most polls in a similar time frame had him in the middle to upper 50s. We still have him in the 40s with them, and so does every other poll that's come out this month that Pollster has it broken out for.

There has not been a similar discrepancy between our numbers and others among Democrats. In March most everyone, including us, had him in the high 80s or lower 90s, and now most polls show him around the mid 80s.

Here's what I think: Obama never really had the approval of very many people who didn't vote for him. I'm really not sure why he would have- he made it pretty clear what he stood for last fall and if folks didn't like it enough to vote for him then, I'm not sure why they would have approved of his job performance at any time this year. And I think our polling (and Rasmussen's) has pretty much reflected that throughout 2009.

So why are the live interviewer numbers converging with ours now? Health care, the town halls, and the greater level of dissatisfaction coming across in the media has made Obama disapproval more socially acceptable and I think folks now are letting their true feelings out when they get polled regardless of whether they're talking to a real person or IVR.

I don't think Obama's numbers are really crashing- I just don't think his true level of approval was ever that high to begin with. I think he has seen some drop in popularity, but a very modest one, probably in the 3-5 point range.

That's my theory anyway- someone smarter than me would have to figure out how to prove or disprove it.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

We'll see in your poll next month.

Your last poll had a sample with 35% postgrads, which may have been too much considering that 17% of the electorate on November 4th were post-grads.

I'm guessing you'll find him under 50% next month. The media is telling us that the economy is improving but it doesn't matter. His numbers are dropping in every poll. When almost half the country, according to NBC News, believes your healthcare plan is likely to allow the government to pull the plug on grandma, there's not much you can do.

Anonymous said...

Tom, sticking up for Rasmussen? Your leader Kos has dismissed Rasmussen despite praising him last year.

Tom Jensen said...

Um ok. Although I certainly like Kos and think he does great work, he is not my 'leader.'

Russ said...

All I'll say is this: I didn't believe the polls when he was in the 70's-80's and I don't believe the polls that show him to be in the lower 50's. I believe his approval has been 55-65 from the day of the election to now.

The best indicator of that comes from his approval among liberals, conservatives and moderates. There has been little change among liberals and moderates:

From Gallup; 8/17-23 (1/19-25 in parenthesis)
Liberals 85 (83)
Moderates 62 (74)
Conservatives 28 (51)

And the results from the 2008 election (via exit polls) were 89% among Liberals and 60% among moderates (20% among Conservatives).

Based on the 2008 electorate, if the election were to be held today, President Obama would win with 56% of the vote -- a landslide.

So I agree, his approval was never THAT high, but at the same time I also don't believe that his approval is as low as the numbers currently show.

brodero said...

I think you will find that if you
look at the approval/disapproval on
a geographical basis you will find
the unpopularity located almost on
virulent sense in the South which
does effect the national numbers but
is not a basis for any political
campaign. The Republicans are way too regionalized or to put it another they better put their eggs in other geographical baskets.

Matthew Avitabile said...

Definitely could be.

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