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Obama Poll Watch -- January, 2013

[ Posted Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 – 16:23 PST ]

Maintaining His Gains

President Obama ended up his first term by consolidating the job approval polling gains he made in his re-election. His numbers have settled into a new range, and were remarkably steady all month long. Obama's "second honeymoon" period with the public may not last more than a few months, but for now seems to be holding steady. With the election fading into the past, Obama's in a pretty good position right now in terms of "political capital," but this will likely change as legislative reality sets in.

Let's go to the chart, to see how Obama finished up his first term in office:

Obama Approval -- January 2013

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

January, 2013

January marked the end of President Obama's first term, and the start of his second. January started off with the endgame of the fiscal cliff negotiations, where Obama scored a clean victory over the Republicans in Congress, by getting income tax rates hiked on upper-income taxpayers for the first time in twenty years. Obama scored his second political victory when the Republicans backed down on holding the world's economy hostage over the debt ceiling issue. They punted the whole decision a few months down the road, but it will likely get solved in the midst of the other upcoming budget battles.

Later in the month, Obama got the benefit of the pomp and circumstance of Inauguration Day, where he used the opportunity to give a much feistier speech than anyone expected. This sets the stage for next week's State Of The Union address to a joint session of Congress (and the American people).

Throughout all of this, Obama's job approval poll numbers stayed pretty rock steady. One outlier poll mid-month brought his average numbers down a tad, but every other poll put him between about 51 percent and 55 percent approval. The one "odd poll out" from Fox put him at only 47 percent, but this wasn't reflected in any other polling.

This resulted in a slight drop in approval, down from 53.1 to 52.7 percent. This ends Obama's longest run yet of increasing approval ratings, as it is the first such drop in the past six months. Offsetting this, Obama's disapproval numbers also dropped slightly, down 0.2 percent to a 42.6 percent average for the month. Partly, this is a result of a lot more "undecided" Americans, as the election hoopla fades. From a low of 2.7 percent the month of the election, the undecided rate was back up to a much-more-normal 4.7 percent for January.

Obama maintained his gains in one important measurement. His approval rating is "above water" (or higher than his disapproval rating) to the tune of 10.1 percent. This, with last month's 10.3 percent rating, is the best "spread" Obama has managed since the end of 2009, and is perhaps the best measurement of how much "political capital" Obama truly has right now. Even after the death of Osama Bin Laden, Obama only managed 8.3 percent, by comparison.

 

Overall Trends

Before we get to taking a closer look at the trends, we've got a bonus chart today. This is (so far) what we've come up with to extend this chart into Obama's second term. It's really not all that different from the one we've been using for Obama's first term, really.

Obama New

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

We had the option of starting a whole new chart for Obama's second term, and just retiring the first term chart altogether. But this would miss putting Obama's second term numbers into some needed context, so we decided to just extend the X-axis scale to show both terms in one chart. Doing so made the data points look a little strange, so we've removed the "dots" for each month. Unless people have serious objections or brilliant suggestions in the comments today, this is probably what we're going with next month. We'll also likely be "cleaning up" the stats section at the bottom of the column, which is growing alarmingly large.

But let's get on with examining January and predicting the near future, shall we? Obama's trends for January are pretty flat. He didn't improve, he didn't lose much ground. But he did indeed hold onto where he was, which is impressive enough. Obama's five-month streak of increasing approval numbers raised his rating 5.9 percent since last July, and pushed him over 50 percent for the first time since his initial honeymoon period. If he continues polling steadily in the 51-55 percent range, Obama will gain back the 0.4 percent he lost this month (due again, largely, to one outlying poll).

This might signal a return to the pre-election steadiness Obama managed throughout much of his first term. Good news or bad, Obama's poll numbers resisted much "spiking" one way or another and instead mostly followed gentle and steady curves, or spent long periods absolutely flat. Obama got significantly good news in January, from the fiscal cliff victory to the debt ceiling victory to a wonderful inauguration. He's been using the "bully pulpit" with a vengeance, pushing his agenda on gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, and budget issues, but none of this has moved his numbers above the bounce he got from the election. February will have one good moment in the spotlight, as Obama lays out his second term agenda in the State Of The Union speech, but the end of the month is likely to be consumed with congressional squabbling over the budget once again.

If Obama scores an early legislative victory (such as a gun control bill passing the Senate, perhaps), this could give him a small boost. Traditionally, however, honeymoons with the public usually end within a few months (especially in second terms). So the trend heading into the Spring will likely be one of slowly receding job approval. For the moment, if Obama keeps posting numbers with the same steadiness he showed in January, the trendline is one of maintaining his election gains. But once disappointing compromises become necessary to move legislation, Obama's approval ratings are likely to fade. The question will then become how much of a drop he'll experience before he can level them off again. For now, though, he's in better shape than he has been for the past three years.

 

[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Sources And Methodology

ObamaPollWatch.com is an admittedly amateur effort, but we do try to stay professional when it comes to revealing our sources and methodology. All our source data comes from RealClearPolitics.com; specifically from their daily presidential approval ratings "poll of polls" graphic page. We take their daily numbers, log them, and then average each month's data into a single number -- which is then shown on our monthly charts here (a "poll of polls of polls," if you will...). You can read a much-more detailed explanation of our source data and methodology on our "About Obama Poll Watch" page, if you're interested.

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

 

Column Archives

[Dec 12], [Nov 12], [Oct 12], [Sep 12], [Aug 12], [Jul 12], [Jun 12], [May 12], [Apr 12], [Mar 12], [Feb 12], [Jan 12], [Dec 11], [Nov 11], [Oct 11], [Sep 11], [Aug 11], [Jul 11], [Jun 11], [May 11], [Apr 11], [Mar 11], [Feb 11], [Jan 11], [Dec 10], [Nov 10], [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 -- 10/11 -- 43.4%

Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 9/11, 10/11 -- 51.2%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/09 -- 19.6%

Daily
Highest Daily Approval -- 2/15/09 -- 65.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 10/9/11 -- 42.0%

Highest Daily Disapproval -- 8/30/11 -- 53.2%
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)
01/13 -- 52.7 / 42.6 / 4.7
12/12 -- 53.1 / 42.8 / 4.1
11/12 -- 50.6 / 46.7 / 2.7
10/12 -- 49.4 / 47.8 / 2.8
09/12 -- 49.1 / 47.6 / 3.3
08/12 -- 47.8 / 48.3 / 3.9
07/12 -- 47.2 / 48.1 / 4.7
06/12 -- 47.8 / 47.8 / 4.4
05/12 -- 48.1 / 47.8 / 4.1
04/12 -- 47.8 / 47.1 / 5.1
03/12 -- 47.7 / 47.2 / 5.1
02/12 -- 48.2 / 47.2 / 4.6
01/12 -- 46.3 / 48.3 / 5.4
12/11 -- 45.1 / 49.5 / 5.4
11/11 -- 44.4 / 50.2 / 5.4
10/11 -- 43.4 / 51.2 / 5.4
09/11 -- 43.5 / 51.2 / 5.3
08/11 -- 43.8 / 50.7 / 5.5
07/11 -- 46.2 / 47.8 / 6.0
06/11 -- 48.5 / 46.0 / 5.5
05/11 -- 51.4 / 43.1 / 5.5
04/11 -- 46.4 / 48.2 / 5.4
03/11 -- 48.1 / 46.4 / 5.5
02/11 -- 49.4 / 44.5 / 6.1
01/11 -- 48.5 / 45.7 / 5.8
12/10 -- 45.5 / 48.1 / 6.4
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

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

17 Comments on “Obama Poll Watch -- January, 2013”

  1. [1] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    I like getting rid of the dots on the approval rating graphic.

    Still think you can do away with the undecideds and show us an easier to see small fluctuations version of all graphics by showing a smaller range on the vertical axis.

    As far as the space called for by the raw monthly data listing, linking to that or at least doing two or three columns would enable less scrolling.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    at some point we all have to own our presidents. to be honest i think people are answering a different question in their minds after an incumbent's re-election than they are before the election. beforehand, the subtext of presidential approval is:

    "should i vote for this guy again?"

    this judgment is probably subject to all sorts of short-term influence from the media, friends, co-workers, anyone with a stake in the outcome. afterward, perhaps it's more personal and reflective. because there isn't as much noise from the outside influencing what we think, it's probably a more honest assessment of whether we believe someone has done well or poorly.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Speak2 -

    You mean something like this?

    Demo chart

    It was one of the demos I played around with. Cuts out the undec., and has a range determined by highest and lowest ratings (although I fudged the 20% line a little, O's rating at the beginning was like 19% I think).

    What do people think?

    -CW

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Hey, that worked pretty well. Haven't pasted an image in a comment in a while, so I wasn't sure it'd work...

    One note: there are technical reasons why this type of graph wouldn't work for anything other than just the monthly Obama chart. So it might have limited uses.

    -CW

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Speak2 -

    As for the data, I'm thinking of removing "Column Archives" and "Raw Data" for the first term, and creating a static page here I can link to, if anyone's interested. Then maybe I'll continue giving stats for second term at the bottom, I dunno.

    One thing I'm sure of: I will be splitting the "all time" listing into first and second term groupings. Obama is not likely to ever hit the high numbers of his initial honeymoon ever again, so this will be much more useful for the second term, I think.

    -CW

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    nypoet22 -

    There is a certain "the election's over... whew!" relief factor at play. The interesting thing to me is that, almost without exception, ALL presidents' approval ratings go up right after the election -- even those that LOSE. Americans get keyed up during the election, but right afterwards there seems to be a "well, he wasn't all THAT bad" feeling, win or lose.

    -CW

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    One thing I'm sure of: I will be splitting the "all time" listing into first and second term groupings. Obama is not likely to ever hit the high numbers of his initial honeymoon ever again, so this will be much more useful for the second term, I think.

    i like this idea. as i wrote above, i think it's not really appropriate to compare any first term with any second term, because the numbers carry a slightly different meaning. even if the difference is not as pronounced as i'm conceiving it to be, people have to at least feel somewhat differently about a new president and one who has already had over four years in office.

    perhaps that's why some people on the left even now find it so incomprehensible that bush was re-elected, given his second-term poll numbers. even before his second term, when people reflected upon bush's body of work, overall they found him wanting, as they generally still do. however, their behavior in the voting booths in 2004 (irrespective of some ohio shenanigans) reflected an opinion of a different nature. even if most people thought he was a lousy president, quite a few still felt safer with him in charge.

    ~joshua

  8. [8] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I see Obama doing a couple of things that also may improve his ratings:

    1) contrary to popular belief, the way to improve your poll ratings is to fight; he's fighting

    2) not only is he fighting, but he's picking good fights

    3) and not only is he picking good fights, but he's fighting from a position of strength and he's gotten much better at negotiating (compromise when appropriate, but don't compromise from the start)

    I love when I see stuff like this:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/07/us-usa-fiscal-obama-idUSBRE9160ZI20130207

    "I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package, that ends this governance by crisis where every two weeks, or every two months, or every six months, we are threatening this hard-won recovery."

    Yes! Focus on how these cost cuts ... that Republicans keep insisting on ... will crush any recovery we've had to this point.

    "But it also means that we've got to be able to close some tax loopholes that the average American cannot take advantage of, to raise the revenue to actually do the job in a way that allows us to continue to grow."

    Yes again! Keep fighting to get rid of loopholes for the wealthy.

    These are the types of things that I believe will only improve his ratings.

    -David

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yes! Focus on how these cost cuts ... that Republicans keep insisting on ... will crush any recovery we've had to this point.

    Newsflash for ya...

    There has been barely ANY recovery to this point.

    And you know why??

    Not because of GOP Obstructionism.. W/o GOP obstructionism, this country would be in the shit hole..

    There has been barely any recovery because Democrats have spent spent spent like they can print the money..

    AND THEY DO!!!

    But ya know.. Even the orgasm of spending MIGHT have prompted a better recovery..

    But instead of spending WISELY, Democrats have rewarded POLITICAL loyalty...

    NOT competence.

    NOT good ideas..

    NOT companies that actually can survive...

    Democrats have based their spending on ONE thing and ONE thing only..

    Ideological loyalty...

    THAT is why we have no recovery..

    PERIOD...

    Michale

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    David -

    Oh, I largely agree with your enumerated points. I would add

    4) because he's been re-elected, he is not as averse to fighting a fight he might lose.

    In the first term, one of O's problems was he would shy away from certain battles, so the GOP couldn't paint him as a "failed" president who couldn't get stuff done. He seems a whole lot less interested in such nuance now.

    -CW

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Newsflash for ya...

    There has been barely ANY recovery to this point.

    michale,

    i suppose that depends on one's definition of recovery. if you mean recovering to y2k levels, then yes we have a looooong way to go. but relative to december 2008, we're definitely doing better. this is what i mean when i say obama's supporters and critics both tend to overstate their respective cases. i agree that the spending has been way too high for way too little impact on the general welfare, but that's par for the course since reagan dreamed up SDI. i'm comfortable saying that the recovery has been limited and largely inefficient, but to say there's been barely ANY recovery denies the facts of where we were four years ago.

    “This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”
    -princess leia, star wars

    ~joshua

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    i'm comfortable saying that the recovery has been limited and largely inefficient, but to say there's been barely ANY recovery denies the facts of where we were four years ago.

    While what you say may be true, ask your average Joe Sixpack if he is better off then he was 4 years ago...

    I think we both know what the answer would be..

    “This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”

    Now THAT was funny!! :D

    Michale

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    [snark]the above quote has also been attributed to princess laura in the iraq wars. [/snark]

  14. [14] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Hi CW

    Actually, I was thinking more of a 40-60 range on the vertical axis. Since there's no dip or spike after the first half year that goes outside this range, you could just have the first quarter go off the chart (no big deal, really).

    While you want to show the steadiness, if that's all you're showing, there really isn't any need for your analyses.

    Instead, your analyses look at short-term variation and medium-term trends, so having the middle 20 points highlighted by "magnification" enables that much better.

    Not to be pedantic, but the point of descriptive statistics (such as using a graphic to display data) is to show the data in an easier to see way than, say, a table of numbers.

    If you felt the need for it, you could have the "click on the graphic" link link to a graph that includes the high and low of the first six months. Personally, I don't see a need for it. You could even have a comment line underneath declaring the high and low point of the first six months (again, I don't think there's a need).

    As for linking to your bottom content, keeping such a page "static" while updating it on some regular schedule, great way to deal with that.

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Joshua,

    i'm comfortable saying that the recovery has been limited and largely inefficient, but to say there's been barely ANY recovery denies the facts of where we were four years ago.

    Would you also agree that, if Stimulus Funds went to businesses that actually were competent rather than simply rewarding ideological loyalty, that the recovery would be a LOT better than it is??

    If you need background, I can list all the hundreds of companies that had two things in common..

    They were political donors

    AND

    They were bankrupt or on the way there soon after receiving stimulus funds...

    Michale

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Would you also agree that, if Stimulus Funds went to businesses that actually were competent rather than simply rewarding ideological loyalty, that the recovery would be a LOT better than it is??

    i think it would be a lot better if the funds didn't go to any businesses whatsoever. there are so many state and local governments who need major help, so much infrastructure that's decaying, there's really no pressing need to give those funds to lots of companies that have not been carefully vetted for their viability. political patronage does suck, but it is older than this country and unlikely to end anytime soon.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    i think it would be a lot better if the funds didn't go to any businesses whatsoever. there are so many state and local governments who need major help, so much infrastructure that's decaying, there's really no pressing need to give those funds to lots of companies that have not been carefully vetted for their viability. political patronage does suck, but it is older than this country and unlikely to end anytime soon.

    So, we agree. Albeit for different reasons. :D

    "Yea... I can live with that."
    -Keeanu Reeves, THE REPLACEMENTS

    :D

    Michale

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