ChrisWeigant.com

Obama Poll Watch [September 2009] -- Obama Halts His Slide

[ Posted Monday, October 5th, 2009 – 14:54 PDT ]

As October dawns... well, actually... we're more into mid-morning October, as it were (see Program Note, below)... perhaps "as October gets underway" (that's better) -- it's time again to take our monthly look back, to see how President Obama is doing in the opinion polls. This month, the news for Obama fans is not bad. It's not get-up-and-cheer good, either, but it's a lot better than the news has been for the past two months.

I say this because Obama has stopped his slide in the polls. The downward slope of his approval numbers came to a screeching halt, and instead began hovering above (but never dipping below) the 50 percent mark. Since then, they have wavered in the 50-55 point range -- not trending clearly upwards, but at least not trending clearly downwards, either. Better news for Obama fans is the fact that his disapproval numbers did actually reverse course, after hitting a mid-month peak, and have settled downwards from that point on.

After we look at these trends in a bit of detail, we continue our trip through the past, focusing this month on George Herbert Walker Bush, and how his poll numbers compare to Obama's.

Of course, you can continue tracking our past presidential comparisons (for, so far: G.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and G.H.W. Bush) with fun and up-to-date graphs, over at our ObamaPollWatch.com page.

But enough shameless self-promotion, let's get on to the charts!

Obama Approval -- August 2009

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

 

September 2009

As I said, that's a better chart to look at for Obamaphiles than the past few months. Holding even is better than going downwards. Going up would be better still, but that may remain elusive for Obama until he actually signs a healthcare reform bill.

Obama started off the month of September in stark contrast to his opposition. He gave a speech to school children, and the far right howled: "Indoctrination!" Middle-class and independent voters saw this as a bit unseemly. Then Obama gave a rousing speech to a joint session of Congress on healthcare reform, and a Republican shouted out "You lie!" during his speech. This was the natural end to the town hall ferocity of August. But Obama's critics have seemingly gone too far in their naked disrespect and disdain of our duly-elected president (the recent cheering of the right over the loss of the Olympics drove this disrespect straight into the swamp of anti-Americanism... and middle class voters are taking note). Because this is precisely the point where Obama turned his poll numbers around.

For the rest of the month, slow progress was made by Max Baucus' committee on actually producing a healthcare reform bill, which destroyed the media's inside-the-Beltway wisdom (which they've been trying desperately to feed us for months now) that "healthcare reform is dead for this year." Coming up this month: the destruction of the media's inside-the-Beltway storyline that "the Senate Finance Committee runs the entire United States government," as they are all astonished to find out that there are four other competing bills. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, the best news is that nobody (in the media or in the White House) seems interested in the word "bipartisan" any more. This is good news indeed, if you'd like to see some sort of healthcare bill passed this year.

Foreign-policy-wise, Obama scrapped Bush's ridiculously provocative "Star Wars" missile defense in Eastern Europe, and in exchange got the Russians on board with putting the screws to Iran. The talks between Iran and the U.S. later showed more progress in one day (as a direct result of Russia's pressure, no doubt) than in the past eight years. The failure of Chicago's Olympics bid happened after the month closed, so its effect (if any) will show up next month.

Let's take a quick overview of the numbers this month, and then move on to identifying what they mean and their overall trends. Barack Obama's approval numbers this month almost completely stopped the slide they've been experiencing since June -- but not totally, as they were down a tiny tenth of a percent to 52.7 percent. But 0.1 percent down is good news indeed because it followed losses of 1.6 percent (June), 3.4 percent (July), and 3.6 percent (August). And if the last few days of September had been just slightly better in the daily poll averages, Obama would have remained exactly even. But the real good news is actually hidden, since one number per month can't accurately show intra-month trends. Obama's disapproval overall for the month was up (as it has been every month since he took office) 1.2 percent, to 42.0 percent for September. But for the first time, Obama has a good chance of reversing both trends next month.

 

Overall Trends

Technically, Obama continued his trend of getting worse this month, when you look at only the chart above. Once again, his approval numbers hit their all-time low this month, and his disapproval numbers hit their all-time high.

But once you look at the daily numbers, you see a real turnaround. For the past four months, Obama's approval numbers have followed a slide within the month as well. His high for the month would come very early in the month (the first week), and his low for the month would happen at the very end of the month. This month was not a complete reversal of this trend, but a partial one which shows signs of encouragement. Obama hit his approval low point on the first day of the month, at 51.5 percent, and then rose to his high point of 53.6 percent on the 21st day of the month. But this gain was not steady, but rather bounced around a bit, and he ended the month down a bit, at 52.5 percent. But still -- this is the first month since April that Obama closed better than he opened.

This was even more noticeable in his disapproval rate. Obama started the month at 43.8 percent, which fluctuated a bit and then hit a high of 44.0 percent on the 13th of September. Since this point, the numbers fell a whopping 3.5 points to close the month at a low of 40.5 percent. Once again, this is the first time this has happened since April. But although Obama's disapproval may have already peaked for now, such subtle movements don't show up in the monthly numbers for a while, so his monthly data point (being an average) is still up for this month. Both of these trends can be seen in more detail at the daily poll-of-polls graph over at RealClearPolitics, where we get our data from.

October is likely to see Obama continuing to hold his ground, and perhaps nudge upwards in his approval rating. Healthcare reform is likely not going to pass all the hurdles in Congress in October, which is much more likely to happen (if it does, of course) in November or even December. But it should make progress during the month, and may in fact make it through either a House or Senate floor vote. Or perhaps, even both. This will help Obama at the margins, but he won't get a true spike upward until he actually has something on his desk to sign. So look for a fairly flat line next month for his approval, no matter which direction it heads. And, if the trend holds, it appears that Obama's opponents are starting to turn some people off with their stridency, so look for that number to come down next month.

All in all, Obama had a comparatively good month last month, by halting his worrisome slide in the polls, with the prospect of reversing it altogether and starting to gain back some of the lost ground next month.

 

Obama v. George H.W. Bush

We continue our walk back through time this month, by examining the record of President George H.W. Bush. Bush (the father) had a lot better numbers overall than Bush (the son), although they both hit record wartime highs. Because only one point was (literally) off the chart -- 85.6 percent in March, 1991 -- I didn't think it was necessary to modify the scale, as we did with Bush (the son)'s first term chart. [Note: I could only find data from Gallup (provided by the University of Connecticut's Roper Center) for any president before Bill Clinton, so if anyone's got data from more than a single polling organization, please let me know where to find it.]

G.H.W.

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

Bush started his term at record highs, due to the leftover warm feelings for Reagan. President Ronald Reagan (whom we'll examine next month) was somewhat tarnished towards the end, by his admission that the Iran-Contra scandal actually had some fire (and not just smoke, as he had claimed earlier), but by the very end of his term he had bounced back from this.

Bush benefited from two events which took place during the early part of his term -- the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall began to come down at the beginning of November, 1989, which you can see drove Bush's approval up to an early peak of 80 percent. The second, even-greater peak happened during the Gulf War, which happened after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Other than his first month in office, Bush didn't fall below 55 percent until his re-election campaign began in earnest -- an astonishing feat for any president.

Bush's extremely impressive numbers caused a number of prominent Democrats to decide to sit out the 1992 presidential election. "Bush is going to get re-elected," they figured, "so why bother -- I'll wait until '96." But Bush ran into a brick wall before he got to the election -- this was the year of "it's the economy, stupid," if you'll recall. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge to Republicans, which outraged many in his party, plus he had to contend with the strongest third-party bid in generations (H. Ross Perot took 19 percent of the popular vote). All of this combined to send Bush's approval ratings down to the mid-30s during the election itself. He did, at the very end, receive the same sort of bounce in the polls which almost every president gets on his way out of office (even Bush's son went up in the polls at the very end, although not as much as his father did).

Barack Obama's numbers don't look all that great when stacked up against George H.W. Bush's (so far, at least):

Obama v. G.H.W. Bush -- September 2009

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

The lesson to be drawn from George H.W. Bush is that it's virtually impossible to predict what is going to happen in any election, until you actually get there. Bush had truly astronomical numbers for his first three years -- so much so that he was considered "invincible" in 1992. During this time, his disapproval numbers averaged around 20 percent, and only got above 30 percent for one two-month period. His approval numbers didn't fall below 55 percent during this entire period as well, and averaged closer to 70 percent.

Those are some pretty good numbers. In fact, those are incredible numbers for any president to have. Which is why he looked unbeatable, in the crucial period when politicians were deciding whether or not to run.

But what a difference a year makes. By the election, Bush had hit his low point in the polls, and lost to Bill Clinton.

The moral of this story is: it doesn't matter where the polls are one year out, literally anything -- good or bad -- can happen between now and an upcoming election. This lesson, incidentally, has been completely ignored by the media mavens who are already feverishly handicapping next year's midterms (and, incidentally, predicting massive losses for the Democratic Party). Remember, guys, anything can happen. We've got a whole year to go.

 

[Program Note: Due to a quirk in the calendar, we're getting to the ObamaPollWatch column a bit late this month. Much like calculating Easter (except, for this column's purposes, the full moon has no bearing on when it appears -- although, upon reflection, it may occasionally influence the content... ahem), it's not as easy as it looks. Because Fridays already have their own column series, this column will always appear on the first Monday or Wednesday which follows the end of a month. If I'm really, really on top of it, I can sometimes get it out on the last day of the month. Sadly, this month, this was not to be. So, because the month ended last Wednesday, and because the charts I have to create each month are multiplying, we're well into October. Apologies for the delay.]

 

[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Column Archives

[Aug 09], [Jul 09], [Jun 09], [May 09], [Apr 09], [Mar 09]

 

Obama's All-Time Statistics

Monthly
Highest Monthly Approval -- 2/09 -- 63.4%
Lowest Monthly Approval -- 9/09 -- 52.7%

Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 9/09 -- 42.0%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/09 -- 19.6%

Daily
Highest Daily Approval -- 2/15/09 -- 65.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 8/20/09 -- 51.2%

Highest Daily Disapproval -- 9/13/09 -- 44.0%
Lowest Daily Disapproval -- 1/29/09 -- 19.3%

 

Obama's Raw Monthly Data

[All-time high in bold, all-time low underlined.]

Month -- (Approval / Disapproval / Undecided)
09/09 -- 52.7 / 42.0 / 5.3
08/09 -- 52.8 / 40.8 / 6.4
07/09 -- 56.4 / 38.1 / 5.5
06/09 -- 59.8 / 33.6 / 6.6
05/09 -- 61.4 / 31.6 / 7.0
04/09 -- 61.0 / 30.8 / 8.2
03/09 -- 60.9 / 29.9 / 9.2
02/09 -- 63.4 / 24.4 / 12.2
01/09 -- 63.1 / 19.6 / 17.3

 

Questions or comments? Use the Email Chris page to drop me a note.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

14 Comments on “Obama Poll Watch [September 2009] -- Obama Halts His Slide”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    While we have no way of knowing how things will look a year from now I do like to keep up on the polls to see what people are thinking. However, I do realize that so much depends on the latest news cycle and how issues are presented to the public. My hope is that the Obama Administration is taking note when they go off track and that they will remember that they are public servants.

    ...Stan

  2. [2] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Chris, you have no idea how much I appreciate the efforts you put into this.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    What ya'all are seeing is simply the calm before the storm.

    DunselCare will fail and nothing will make it to Obama's desk. Odds are now at 75/25..

    At the VERY least, some limp-noodled legislation will make it thru Congress to Obama's desk. It will have no Public Option and will be so watered down that it won't be acceptable to anyone for anything except the Administration to say, "See!? We did SOMETHING!!". Odds are now at 60/40

    We will see this reflected in the poll numbers starting next month. Within a few months (5-6 at the outside) Obama will be polling lower than Bush.

    This, of course, assumes CW's same caveat that there isn't an external event of sufficient magnitude to push Obama's poll numbers higher (or lower)..

    Speaking of such an event....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz86TsGx3fc

    WOW :D

    Michale....

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Forgive me, but wasn't one of Obama's primary campaign promises that all bills and legislation would be posted online several days before they are to be voted on??

    Then why are Pelosi and Reid fighting legislation that will do just that???


    Congressional leaders fight against posting bills online

    By: Susan Ferrechio
    Chief Congressional Correspondent
    October 6, 2009

    While most Americans normally ignore parliamentary detail, with health care looming, voters are suddenly paying attention. The Senate is expected to vote on a health bill in the weeks to come, representing months of work and stretching to hundreds of pages. And as of now, there is no assurance that members of the public, or even the senators themselves, will be given the chance to read the legislation before a vote.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Congressional-leaders-fight-against-posting-bills-online-8340658-63557217.html

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Apologies to kevinem2... This is one of those instances where re-reading CW's commentary brought forth new ideas... :D

    CW,

    I think you are overestimating Obama's chances of having his poll numbers rise..

    All partisanship aside, can you think of ANYTHING that Obama has going for him that could be considered in the PLUS column??

    I mean, look at things.

    Iran is thumbing it's nose at the US...

    North Korea has all but given the US the finger...

    The military is holding press conferences, speaking directly to the public...

    Afghanistan is becoming a political football that Obama will likely punt...

    DunselCare is sinking in the polls...

    Obama was totally humiliated by Daley over the Olympics fiasco...

    Another CZAR is soon to bite the dust...

    ACORN is showing not 1 but FIVE Million dollars was embezzled by ACORN officials...

    and on and on and on....

    Honestly and truly without any bias whatsoever, I cannot think of ANYTHING that anyone can point to that could actually be a PLUS for Obama that would cause his poll numbers to rise.

    Can you??

    Michale.....

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Once again, my apologies.. :D

    Better news for Obama fans is the fact that his disapproval numbers did actually reverse course, after hitting a mid-month peak, and have settled downwards from that point on.

    CW, maybe I am missing something here, but according to your chart and your numbers, Obama's disapproval number haven't reversed course. They are still moving higher...

    09/09 - 42.0
    08/09 - 40.8
    07/09 - 38.1
    06/09 - 33.6
    05/09 - 31.6
    04/09 - 30.8
    03/09 - 29.9
    02/09 - 24.4
    01/09 - 19.6

    As you can see by your numbers, Obama's DISAPPROVAL numbers have steadily climbed from a low of 19.6 to a current high of 42.0...

    I think what you may be referring to are Obama's UNDECIDED numbers..

    That HAS plateaued last month and actually gone down this month..

    But all that says is that there are MORE people who WERE undecided about Obama but now are disapproving of Obama...

    Michale......

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    In the quote, I was talking about his daily numbers. See the following paragraph to explain what I was referring to:

    This was even more noticeable in his disapproval rate. Obama started the month at 43.8 percent, which fluctuated a bit and then hit a high of 44.0 percent on the 13th of September. Since this point, the numbers fell a whopping 3.5 points to close the month at a low of 40.5 percent. Once again, this is the first time this has happened since April. But although Obama's disapproval may have already peaked for now, such subtle movements don't show up in the monthly numbers for a while, so his monthly data point (being an average) is still up for this month. Both of these trends can be seen in more detail at the daily poll-of-polls graph over at RealClearPolitics, where we get our data from.

    And click the link in that paragraph above to see a chart of what I'm talking about. The chart shows the mid-month highpoint and the dropoff.

    -CW

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ahhh OK... So you were talking about the day to day polling and not the monthly polling.

    I knew it had to me my error... :D

    But then again, there is the Gallup Poll, that shows Obama's approval rating at 50% and his disapproval rating at 43%..

    If one puts any stock in polls.. :D

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    This is the problem with any one poll or any one polling organization, which is why I prefer the "poll of polls" concept. I could just as easily point you to the new AP/GfK poll, where Obama is up 6 points from last month.

    My money for next month would be on "fairly flat, ever-so-slightly upward." And then a big spike (5-10 points) if/when HCR is signed into law, in the next three months.

    -CW

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Meant to say, as well -- you weren't in error in your comment. Monthly, the numbers are still getting worse for Obama. You're also right about the undecideds, on a monthly basis.

    But for the first time, the trend at the beginning of a new month is such that Obama could turn even the monthly numbers around in October. We'll see, next month...

    -CW

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    This is the problem with any one poll or any one polling organization, which is why I prefer the "poll of polls" concept. I could just as easily point you to the new AP/GfK poll, where Obama is up 6 points from last month.

    Which explains my inherent distaste of polls in general. You are very fair about it, taking a bunch of polls into account.

    The intellectually dishonest (such as I was in the previous post :D) will cherry pick the polls that support their argument and ignore the others that don't..

    Michale....

  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    I actually do consider myself pretty fair on how I read the polls -- with a heavily jaundiced eye. I even get my numbers for this column from RCP, which is a fairly right-leaning web site (go to their home page and take a look at the articles they feature -- some left, some center, and a whole lot of right). But I like their methodology for their daily poll aggregate, so I went with their numbers -- I figured it would be a check on me getting irrationally exuberant.

    -CW

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    The more I read about the deterioration of the Afghanistan situation, the more I believe that this, more than anything else, will be the cause of Obama's poll numbers dropping in the next month or so.

    I cannot believe that while our fighting forces get chewed up one side and down the other in theater, Obama is holding a couple of meetings to discuss the issue..

    Discuss the issue AFTER we get the men in theater to at least keep our people alive..

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    I hate being correct all the time...

    A senior administration official says President Barack Obama is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan's political future and is inclined to send only as many more U.S. troops to Afghanistan as are needed to keep al-Qaida at bay.

    The assessment comes from an official who has been involved in the president's discussions with his war council about Afghanistan strategy. The official was authorized to speak to The Associated Press about the discussions but not to be identified by name because the talks are ongoing

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9B72B480&show_article=1

    So, it looks like the Obama administration is hoping to work WITH the Taliban against Al Qaeda..

    Yea.. Let me know how THAT works out... :^/

    It must be that "HOPE" thang that is influencing THAT moronic decision.

    Michale.....

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