Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is Obama in a worse position than election day?

That's a question we're going to try to figure out the answer to in our polling for the next month.

His poll numbers are dropping, the media narrative is that he's in trouble, and some Republicans seem to be happy to write his 2012 obituary barely six months into his Presidency.

We've been finding his approval numbers below his election day percentage in most of the states we've polled lately. But our most recent Virginia poll was sort of a Eureka for me.

It was the first time we've cross tested his approval ratings against respondents' self reported 2008 vote and we found that only 5% of people who voted for him disapprove of the job he's doing, equal to the 5% who didn't vote for him that do approve of the job he's doing.

The WaPo wrote a highly anecdotal story today suggesting Obama's losing support among those who voted for him but our scientific data shows there's really not much of that happening.

Most of the polling we're doing right now is in the context of 2009 and 2010 races. Republicans are more energized for those than Democrats at this point, and that's resulting in us finding poor approval numbers for Obama- within those electorates.

If you reweight our Virginia poll today showing Obama's approval at 42/51 to the 2008 electorate though, his approval becomes 50/44. He won the state 52/ he's more or less exactly where he was on election day.

We're going to start doing the Obama approval by 2008 vote crosstabbing in all of our polls to see if this trend continues, but it looks to me like Obama's popular with those who voted for him and not with those who didn't. I'm not sure that really suggests a weak position for him- it certainly didn't seem weak when that level of support translated to 365 electoral votes!

Some people who didn't vote for Obama may have expressed approval for him in the early days of his term because they felt like they needed to give a new President a chance, but the reality is that Obama is setting out to do what he said he was going to do when he got elected, so if you didn't like what you heard last fall you inevitably were going to end up not liking what you heard when he started governing. The higher levels of approval he initially showed, particularly from Republicans, were inevitable going to fall.

If Obama really starts bleeding 2008 supporters he'll be in trouble but I don't really sense that to be the case right now.


Anonymous said...


The point I've been trying to make is that more people who voted for Obama are now unwilling to admit they voted for him. The same thing occurred with Bush and Kerry in polling this year.

That could be the reason for why the self-reported number is different from the November numbers.

Unknown said...

Could it be that while Obama has been largely focused on pushing through his farily hefty agenda, versus campaigning and position himself for 2010 and 2012, while Republicans have largely ignored policy and focused exclusively on politicking and position towards 2010, that that is the reason Republicans have become far more energized?

I suspect that when Obama is ready to turn himself back into political mode again that Republicans who've largely spent their time trying to upend any and everything attached to Obama, will begin feeling serious heat once more. Obama doesn't wing anything, and it feels like he's just biding his time to strike back when it counts the most. Republicans are jumping the gun here.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't this show that your samples are off?

Anonymous said...

It is simple on Obama. If the economy is going good in 2012 he wins. Obama is not improving peoples lives right now. We continue to lose 500,000 jobs a month. Jobs and the economy will decide his fate in 2012.
2010 figures to be a GOP bounceback year. It is just a matter how big a year it is for the GOP. One party doesn't dominate forever. Something bad will happen while Democrats rule.

Stephanie said...

Isn't there a well-documented phenomenon of folks lying to pollsters about how they cast their vote if they voted for an unpopular candidate, or even for a candidate who lost? Didn't polls in 2002, when GWB was popular, find far more than 50% of respondents claiming to have voted in 2000 for Bush? I hope you're right about Obama remaining popular among people who voted for him, but I wonder whether you're simply finding that people who voted for Obama but wish they hadn't done so, or no longer approve of him, now say (even to a computer) that they didn't vote, or that they voted for McCain.

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