ChrisWeigant.com

Obama Poll Watch -- November, 2010

[ Posted Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 – 15:50 PST ]

Remarkable Stability

President Obama just had his most stable month ever in the public opinion polls. This month also caps off a truly remarkable year of polling stability for Obama.

Of course, were you to just read the headlines or listen to the soundbites on television, you may have a different impression. "Obama's poll numbers tanking!" seems to be the conventional stupidity (I just can't bring myself to call such nonsense "wisdom" even with a qualifier) parroted in the media for roughly the past year.

True, Obama's poll numbers did "tank" in 2009, but since then they have neither dropped precipitously nor recovered -- they have remained fairly stable. Which is the story pretty much everyone has been missing.

Before we get to all of that in more detail, let's take a look at the updated chart for Obama:

Obama Approval -- November 2010

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

November, 2010

November began with (in his own words) a "shellacking" at the ballot box for President Obama's party. Again, a story the entire media universe missed was that this did not budge his approval rating among the public one bit. Surprised? It's no wonder, with all the talk of the election being a massive "rejection" of Obama and all that he stood for.

All month long, news trickled out that the "bailouts" were working, although this news was never really articulated by Democrats much and woven into a (mostly non-existent) political narrative, so not many folks noticed. GM is well on its way to recovery and paying back their bailout money, and even TARP may eventually break even -- with all (or, at the least, over 95 percent) of the money repaid. As I said, though, Democrats failed mostly to capitalize on this news... as usual. Obama did trumpet the GM news a bit, to his credit.

Nancy Pelosi surprised everyone by announcing that rumors of her stepping down as House Democratic leader were not to be believed, but the White House stayed out of this political fracas, so it didn't really reflect on Obama much one way or the other.

Obama's deficit commission co-chairs announced a draft of the plan they were hoping to come up with, but this merely signified that no plan was likely to get the necessary 14 of 18 votes from the commission. Few Democrats had anything nice to say about the plan, and as the month closed it became apparent that the commission wasn't going to be able to agree on much of anything.

Republicans have been fairly quiet over the past month, as they deal with their own inside-the-party squabbles over what to do now that they're going to hold one house of Congress next year. At the end of the month, they did finally muster up the political courage to meet with the president, which happened without any real fireworks (or actual progress on any of the issues).

Obama has been using his bully pulpit to push an issue he might not win on -- the "New START" strategic arms reduction treaty. Being a treaty, it cannot be either amended or filibustered in the Senate -- but it also requires a daunting 67 votes for ratification. Meaning Obama's going to need a double-handful of Republicans to vote for it. Republican Senator Jon Kyl has been leading the fight against the treaty, for ever-more-obscure reasons (and for his own species of kickback in the military budget). Obama, so far, has been resolute on pushing a vote on the treaty, and by doing so has painted Republicans into the "you're delaying national security for partisan reasons" corner, so it'll be interesting to see how this all works out.

And finally, the lame duck Congress is back in town, but didn't accomplish much before the end of November -- but will be big news in the coming month.

Throughout the entire month, President Obama's approval rating did not change one tiny bit. It remained at 45.5 percent, exactly the number he posted in October. This is the first time this has happened in his presidency, although statistically it is no more significant that posting small changes of less than a half percent (which he's done numerous times before). The remarkable thing, however, is that in the same month, his disapproval rate also remained essentially unchanged -- and actually got better by a tenth of a percent -- to end up at 49.0 percent for the month. Taken together, this is the smallest aggregate change in ratings Obama has ever posted. In other words, the month was remarkably stable for the president's approval ratings.

 

Overall Trends

Not only were Obama's final numbers for the month remarkably stable, but his numbers within the month were also about as close to a flat line as you can get. Obama began the month at 46.0 percent approval, fell in the second week to 44.9 percent, then quickly rose to 46.0 percent again. Obama finished the month with a smaller version of this cycle, falling to 45.4 and then closing the month out at 45.9 percent -- virtually unchanged from the first day of the month. In November, Obama's daily approval rate only fluctuated a tiny 1.1 percent, in other words. This was the smallest rate of fluctuation Obama has ever posted.

Obama's disapproval rate fluctuated a bit more -- but not much. Obama started the month at 49.0 percent disapproval, which quickly rose to 50.0 percent, but then fell back in the latter part of the month to a low of 48.0 percent. This climbed slightly to finish the month at 49.3 percent -- again, almost exactly where it had begun the month. For the entire month, Obama's disapproval rate only fluctuated a total of 2.0 percent. Obama's final average for November was 49.0 percent -- a one-tenth point gain from October, and the second straight month of gains for Obama in this category. Obama has only lowered his monthly average disapproval a total of four times in his entire presidency, and two of them have been in the past two months, to put it another way.

Even more significantly, for the first month in a long time, Obama posted no all-time high marks, either in daily polling or monthly averages. His lowest all-time monthly approval happened in August this year, and he's posted better numbers in the three months since. His highest all-time monthly disapproval happened in September, and has since fallen for two straight months. Obama posted no all-time records in daily numbers, either, for the first time in a long time.

Part of the explanation for the flatness of Obama's numbers could stem from a certain lull in polling around Thanksgiving. But, even with this gap, Obama has shown remarkable consistency throughout the month.

Which brings us to the bigger picture of "How flat is flat?" Feel free to insert your own "flatline" or "Flatland" joke here (although we strongly frown on juvenile and misogynistic humor, so don't even go there, please).

The only way to answer this question is to put things in perspective, and attempt to expand the flatness in some sort of context. To do so, I've taken the past twelve months of the above graph, and expanded the heck out of the vertical scale. This graph shows President Obama's poll numbers for the past year, under a magnifying glass:

Obama Approval -- November 2010

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

Even when we expand the original graph's scale more than tenfold, periods of flatness still can be seen. In early 2010, Obama flirted with 48 percent approval for four months, and the same sort of plateau is seen in the past four months as well. Obama's disapproval line is a bit less flat on this scale, but recently has shown signs of flattening out as well, if not actually falling back.

True, the overall trend for Obama has been downhill approval-wise and uphill disapproval-wise. But the striking thing to me is how stable even this trend has been. In an entire year, the absolute difference between Obama's approval rate and his disapproval rate has stayed at less than five percent. Last December was his high point, at a 4.5 percent positive difference. This August was his low point, with a 4.2 percent negative difference of opinion. Since August, this gap has been closing every month, until it now stands at 3.5 percent negative.

That is remarkably stable.

To put all these figures into words, first consider the year we are talking about. Last December was the first big showdown on healthcare reform in the Senate. This dominated the political debate for months, until it was finally signed into law. Next came Wall Street reform -- a more esoteric issue, but an important one as well. In the midst of all this was the BP oil well disaster in the Gulf. Then we had a brutal midterm election season. Throughout all of this (and many other contentious battles I didn't even bother mentioning), virtually the entire country did not budge in their assessment of how Obama was doing his job. Ninety percent of the populace either continued to approve or disapprove of the job Obama was doing. Another five percent were consistently "undecided." Only five percent -- one person in twenty -- had a changing opinion on Obama at all. This five percent started off approving of Obama, then switched to disapproval, and are now possibly beginning to register some approval for Obama once again.

Remarkably, remarkably stable. Which you simply would not be aware of, if all you had to go on was the mainstream media, I point out once again.

To put this in even further perspective, compare Obama's record to Bill Clinton's first term. At the end of October (in other words, midterm election time), Obama and Clinton were almost exactly at the same point in both approval and disapproval:

Obama Approval -- November 2010

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

But look at the fluctuation in Clinton's lines, compared to Obama's. In the same period we just examined for Obama above (the past year), Clinton's approval fluctuated a full 13 percent. His disapproval fluctuated even more -- a whopping 15.3 percent -- in the same time period. Obama's numbers, by comparison, were a range of 4.1 percent for approval and 4.8 percent for disapproval.

Of course, the flat nature of Obama's lines for the past few months make it tough to predict what is around the corner for him. December could be a very productive month for the president, if he can manage to shepherd some significant legislation through the lame duck Congress. He's certainly got no shortage of issues to choose from, in addition to the "New START" treaty he has already thrown his weight behind. But it could just as easily become a very disappointing month, as Republicans do what they do best, which is to block absolutely everything from happening.

Historically, Obama has these plateaus and then goes into a further slide in approval, I hasten to point out. This could prove to be the case this time as well. But there is also the hint of a possibility that Obama has hit a low point and is clawing his way back upwards. Continued improvement in the economy would certainly help him out in general public opinion, so the next few months of economic indicators will be crucial (beginning this Friday with the release of the new unemployment numbers).

Much depends on the next few weeks, and the productivity of the lame duck Congress. Much also depends on how Obama is seen by the public during this period as well -- whether he is seen as leading or not, in other words, no matter what the outcome in Congress.

Of course, there's a third option as well. Obama's approval ratings could remain... well... remarkable stable, and not move much in any direction at all.

 

[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Column Archives

[Oct 10], [Sep 10], [Aug 10], [Jul 10], [Jun 10], [May 10], [Apr 10], [Mar 10], [Feb 10], [Jan 10], [Dec 09], [Nov 09], [Oct 09], [Sep 09], [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 -- 8/10 -- 45.3%

Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 9/10 -- 49.7%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/09 -- 19.6%

Daily
Highest Daily Approval -- 2/15/09 -- 65.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 10/17/10 -- 44.2%

Highest Daily Disapproval -- 9/26/10 -- 51.2%
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)
11/10 -- 45.5 / 49.0 / 5.5
10/10 -- 45.5 / 49.1 / 5.4
09/10 -- 45.7 / 49.7 / 4.6
08/10 -- 45.3 / 49.5 / 5.2
07/10 -- 46.6 / 47.4 / 6.0
06/10 -- 47.6 / 46.7 / 5.7
05/10 -- 48.1 / 45.5 / 6.4
04/10 -- 47.8 / 46.5 / 5.7
03/10 -- 48.1 / 46.4 / 5.5
02/10 -- 47.9 / 46.1 / 6.0
01/10 -- 49.2 / 45.3 / 5.5
12/09 -- 49.4 / 44.9 / 5.7
11/09 -- 51.1 / 43.5 / 5.4
10/09 -- 52.2 / 41.9 / 5.9
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

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

18 Comments on “Obama Poll Watch -- November, 2010”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Besides all of the critical issues coming up this month in the lame duck Congress, there is the latest WikiLeaks sensation which may have the biggest effect of all on Obama's poll numbers for month of December, whether or not his legislative agenda is advanced.

    Here is just one small example - one very small example of what I find so disconcerting about the release of extremely sensitive diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/12/wikileaks-cable-obama-quashed-torture-investigation

    The media/blogosphere/punditocracy will be providing their usual inaccurate, out-of-context, vacuous, not to mention dangerous (I could go on), analyses of these cables and what they think they mean well through the next election cycle and beyond - at the current release rate, at least.

    While I literally cannot imagine any current Republican contender for president in 2012 ousting President Obama, that may become a distinct possibility as a second groundswell of faux populist anger directed at this administration forms as a result of incompetent and inept journalism. The "professional left" is already off and running with it, at any rate.

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Besides all of the critical issues coming up this month in the lame duck Congress, there is the latest WikiLeaks sensation which may have the biggest effect of all on Obama's poll numbers for month of December, whether or not his legislative agenda is advanced.

    My biggest beef about the WikiLeaks issue is the administration's response to it.

    When WikiLeaks was releasing classified Military information, the administration's response was, "We totally condemn this release of classified information, blaa blaaa blaaa, ho hum, Wanna talk about Obama's latest golf game??"

    But now that it's the DIPLOMATS and POLITICIANS that are in the cross hairs, all of the sudden the Administration is talking criminal investigations, vendettas, cyber attacks and EU Arrest Warrants..

    Double Standard much???

    Here is just one small example - one very small example of what I find so disconcerting about the release of extremely sensitive diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.

    What do you find disconcerting??

    The release or the subject matter???

    The media/blogosphere/punditocracy will be providing their usual inaccurate, out-of-context, vacuous, not to mention dangerous (I could go on), analyses of these cables and what they think they mean well through the next election cycle and beyond - at the current release rate, at least.

    I am sure you know my thoughts on this issue, but what the hell.. :D

    Pre-9/11, when asked, "Is torture ever permissable??" the average American will say, "Not only NO, but HELL NO!!!"

    Post-9/11 the answer to that question from your average American would be, "Depends...."

    This is the reality of the world we live in today...

    While I literally cannot imagine any current Republican contender for president in 2012 ousting President Obama, that may become a distinct possibility as a second groundswell of faux populist anger directed at this administration forms as a result of incompetent and inept journalism. The "professional left" is already off and running with it, at any rate.

    Two words...

    PRESIDENT PALIN

    :D

    Michale.....
    92

  3. [3] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Two words ... PRESIDENT PALIN

    Now yer just tryin' to stir the pot :)

    There is the latest WikiLeaks sensation which may have the biggest effect of all on Obama's poll numbers for month of December, whether or not his legislative agenda is advanced.

    Liz- So far I haven't seen anything from Wikileaks that I think would hurt Obama's poll numbers (knock on wood). I think there's much bigger things most people have to worry about.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Now yer just tryin' to stir the pot :)

    Yea, that was a low blow, to be sure.. :D

    But seriously, a President Palin is not totally outside the realm of possibility.

    Nor would it be the disaster that the Obama presidency has been..

    Michale.....
    93

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    While I literally cannot imagine any current Republican contender for president in 2012 ousting President Obama, that may become a distinct possibility as a second groundswell of faux populist anger directed at this administration forms as a result of incompetent and inept journalism. The "professional left" is already off and running with it, at any rate.

    while i don't necessarily see myself voting republican, and certainly not for palin, I imagine pawlenty could win, or possibly romney. i'm unaware of the wikileaks story being any sort of issue for anyone who didn't have some major issues with the president already. there are many, many groundswells of anger across the political spectrum, professional and otherwise.

    unlike the fox-sponsored tea-partiers, these are populist in actuality, related less to incompetent and inept journalism than to weak, corporatist governing, much of it the president's own creation. the bush tax policy could have been amended a year and a half ago to reduce the deficit and remove the giant advantage it gave the top 1%, without the help of a single republican, but like so many other things, it simply wasn't done. from the look of things now, it never will be.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale and David,

    What I find disconcerting about the latest WikiLeaks document-dump is NOT the release itself, per se (though I do believe that those responsible for stealing these documents in the first place should be punished by the full force of the law), NOR the subject matter of those cables. In fact, I find this little inside look into diplomatic discourse to be very interesting and amusing reading.

    I don't believe that there is anything in these released diplomatic communications that will directly impact upon Obama's poll numbers ... so far, anyway.

    To explain why I'm worried about this, let me just slightly rephrase what I said earlier ...

    The link I provided (David Corn's ramblings in Mother Jones and also published at HuffPost, with comments) in my original post here is just one small example of what I find so disconcert­ing about the release of extremely sensitive diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. Of course, the many comments - the vast majority at HP when I last checked - that support the misguided premise of this David Corn abstraction are what I find most disturbing­...

    Large parts of the media/blog­osphere/pu­nditocracy will be providing their usual inaccurate­, out-of-con­text, vacuous, not to mention dangerous (I could go on), analyses of these cables and what they think they mean well through the next election cycle and beyond - at the current release rate, at least.

    My fear is that a second groundswel­l of faux populist anger will ensue, this time around inaccurate and out-of-con­text media analyses of the sensitive diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, and will be directed at this administra­tion as a result of incompeten­t and inept journalism­.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    nypoet,

    [i]the bush tax policy could have been amended a year and a half ago to reduce the deficit and remove the giant advantage it gave the top 1%, without the help of a single republican, but like so many other things, it simply wasn't done...[/i]

    I don't find your reasoning here to be particularly persuasive. Need I remind you that, a year and a half ago, we were in the midst of the most destructive financial crisis since the Great Depression.

    It simply cannot be seriously argued that the Bush tax cuts could have been amended during this period.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    liz,

    i think your math is a bit off. a year and a half ago it was june, 2009. the worst of the financial crisis had been long since averted, the economy was essentially stable, and the big issue of the day was the sotomayor nomination. al franken was still counting the last of his votes, the president was getting ready to speak in cairo to the muslims of the world, and the next thing on the table was healthcare reform. the president still had a lot of political capital working in his favor, and it would not have been a huge stretch to re-work the tax cuts before taking on health care. at this point it's all academic anyway, but there was nothing happening at that time to prevent the bush tax code from being changed.

    http://www.chrisweigant.com/2009/06/page/2/

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    nypoet,

    [i]i think your math is a bit off. a year and a half ago it was june, 2009...there was nothing happening at that time to prevent the bush tax code from being changed.[/i]

    You know, I have to say that I've been getting a real ... ahem ... education (that's a little plug and comment for the CW.com Holiday Fund Drive, by the way), over the last couple of years regarding the long and short term memory span of people when it comes to what was happening, and when, as it relates to the financial crisis. Which is what I was talking about.

    Why don't you try this little exercise and you'll soon understand the point I'm making ...

    Look back, look way back, to the summer of 2009 and recall what was happening on the economic front insofar as tax and fiscal policy and the nascent recovery were concerned.

    Then, with those facts in hand, demonstrate to me why you think it would have been realistic for Obama/Biden/Geithner to have moved legislation dealing with the Bush tax cuts through Congress at that time.

    I would dearly love to hear your arguments and I look forward to responding to them!

    Incidentally, that link you provide brings back some memories, fond and otherwise, but I’m not quite sure how it relates to this discussion.

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Unemployment has risen to 9.8%..

    That won't help Obama's poll numbers any...

    Michale.....
    98

  11. [11] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    On wikileaks: a so called "expert" on NPR had a great line describing the most recent leak:

    Catastrophic but not serious.

    A common saying in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, I think this guy had been waiting his entire career to use it...

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Bashi,

    On wikileaks: a so called "expert" on NPR had a great line describing the most recent leak:

    Catastrophic but not serious.

    A common saying in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, I think this guy had been waiting his entire career to use it...

    Now THAT was funny, Bashi!! :D

    It's rather ironic that CW did a commentary on this exact concept a few weeks back..

    Towhit, is it in our National Security Interests because it actually threatens our national security? Or is it in our National Security Interests because it's embarrassing??

    The previous batch of WikiLeaks disclosures I believe fit in the former category..

    I think this current batch fits into the latter category.. Although a logical argument can be made that the overall security of communications (or in this case, lack thereof) IS a true National Security issue.

    But that argument is mostly moot, as we are now taking steps to insure ComSec...

    I think the current batch of WikiLeaks is more embarrassing than anything else..

    Michale.....
    99

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Liz,

    "U.S. stocks erased a decline yesterday after Krugman said the economy will probably emerge from the recession by September. Recent reports showing smaller declines in housing and manufacturing and fewer job losses have reinforced forecasts that the slump may end this year.

    “The ‘oh-my-God-the-world-is-ending’” phase of the economic downturn is over, and financial markets are “stabilizing,” Krugman said today (June 9, 2009). Still, “the employment situation is continuing to look bad and will probably get worse,” he said."

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ayAXvw0Mc3CY

    That would actually have been the perfect time to make sure the tax cuts became permanent for the middle class (who spend the money as soon as they get it) and temporary for the rich (who spend much less of what they save). Decades of evidence have proven over and over that demand drives the economy, not supply. Only when income and capital gains taxes are at pre-1980 highs does the supply actually get stifled by taxes. every tax break for the rich at the expense of the middle class in the past 2 decades has hurt the economy, not helped.

    I assert that June 2009 would have been the perfect time to fix that problem, if the democrats in washington had been sincerely interested in doing so. this would have sped the economic recovery which had already begun.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    nypoet,

    I'm afraid your link and arguments illustrate nothing about what was happening on the tax and fiscal policy front, nor on what was happening with respect to legislation to address financial regulatory reforms. Neither do they have anything to say about what was being done on the home mortgage reform front or any number of other initiatives to strengthen the recovery.

    So, no ... the period around June 2009, give or take several months was far from being a perfect time to be working on extending/ending the Bush tax cuts.

    You might want to check out the treasury department's website, from time to time ... :)

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    liz,

    you're telling me that my argument doesn't hold water, but i don't see any counter-argument or refutation other than telling me i'm wrong. what about fiscal policy, regulatory reforms or mortgage reforms would have made it such a bad idea in june, 2009 to make a premature end to the bush tax cuts for anyone over 250K (perhaps with an exception for small businesses with full-time employees)? admittedly i'm no expert in the field, but condescension will not convince me to take it on faith. if you want me to accept your premise that any of those things would have made said tax change unfeasible, then (to coin a phrase) you'll have to educate me.

    on a related note, what would you think if i pledged $2.50 for each reader who posts a comment on cw's education post, and encourage the regulars to get people they know to read and comment. i'd have to cap it at $250 so i don't go poor, but it would be a financial incentive to "spread the good news," as it were.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    nypoet,

    My only point is that there was quite a lot happening on the legislative agenda with regard to the financial crisis and that it is not at all unreasonable to presume that dealing with the Bush tax cuts during this period was just not doable. That's just my opinion which could be entirely off base.

    I would be nice to hear from this administration, every now and again, what their thinking on these matters are but, as we have learned, communication is not their strong suit - which continues to surprise me to no end.

    That would be an extremely generous pledge on your part and I think Chris has to post an education piece - and, fast! I'd certainly like to learn more about that and why you are so vehemently opposed to what they are doing.

    I also think that you might have much better luck in persuading people at HuffPost to contribute than I ever could so I hope you'll try to do that whenever you get the opportunity.

  17. [17] 
    Americulchie wrote:

    Chris
    As I have stated before the only statistics I put any faith in are the ones in the Daily Racing Form.The rest just keep my eyes watering.:)

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    liz,

    how hard is it to convince people to share their opinions? for them it's win-win, they're able to tell what they think without HP's strict moderation, and they can support a great political columnist without it costing them anything.

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