Welcome back once again to our monthly examination of President Barack Obama's job approval polling numbers. In April, Obama's numbers returned to a normal level, after experiencing a very short post-election "honeymoon period" with the public which bounced his numbers up to a peak, and then bounced them right back down again. You can plainly see this effect in this month's chart:
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
April was a month with a lot of big news, but Obama's numbers didn't reflect much of it. April began with some minor-level budgetary positioning, which was followed later by a sequester squabble over delays at the nation's airports. North Korea rattled sabers to get some attention, which kind of fizzled out into nothing, in the end. Prisoners are waging a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, but it didn't really make a whole lot of news. Margaret Thatcher died, but the news was bigger in Britain (obviously) than it was here. Letters containing the poison ricin were sent to a senator, a judge, and President Obama. A gun control bill got a vote in the Senate, but even the background checks part of it couldn't manage the 60 votes Republicans are requiring on pretty much everything, these days. The Syria situation heated up at the end of the month, increasing pressure on Obama to do more than he's done yet to help the Syrian rebels.
But all of these things were largely pushed off the front page due to the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon by two young men. Now, normally, in times of crisis, America tends to exhibit a "rally 'round the president" effect, but when the perpetrators were caught within the week and appeared to be acting on their own, this effect never really got going (Obama's numbers did go up slightly for about a week, but then eased back down again).
In fact, because the Boston bombing was so large an event and so newsworthy, most of the other news in the world of politics will likely fade into obscurity, with the exception of two things. The first is the background check gun control bill, which may indeed make a reappearance at some point before next year's congressional elections. This likely won't affect Obama's poll numbers much, but it may be important in a few Senate races next year. The big story, though, which is indeed going to be a major subject for the next few months, was the "Gang of Eight" in the Senate finally releasing a draft comprehensive immigration bill. This debate is just getting started, really, and could have a big impact on polling all the way through the summer.
For April, however, Obama's numbers stayed pretty stable. In fact, all of the movement seems to have happened from "undecideds" making up their minds. Obama's job approval monthly average rose up a tenth of a percent, up to 48.6 percent, and his disapproval rose a half a percent, to 46.8 percent, while the undecideds declined by the same 0.6 percent, down to 4.6 percent. Of course, the bad news for Obama fans is that more people moved (by a 5-to-1 margin) to "disapproval" than "approval." But this was the first month since December of last year that Obama saw his approval numbers improve. To put it another way, he stopped the slide. After the "honeymoon" bounce, Obama fell a total of 4.6 percent since the beginning of the year, but this slide seems to have halted for now. Likewise with disapproval, to a lesser extent -- the previous month, Obama's disapproval rose 3.2 percent in a single month, but in April this trend slowed considerably and seems to have flattened out as well.
While the second term honeymoon is definitely over, Obama has settled in to a level of polling which puts him roughly where he was after his first term's honeymoon ended. He's doing slightly better than he was before the 2012 campaign really heated up, to put it into further perspective.
Overall, Obama is trending flat right now. This could change, however, especially if Obama announces some sort of military escalation in Syria. The public's really not in much of a mood for another war, so this could have a negative effect on Obama's polling, at least at first. Republicans think they've finally found some sort of Benghazi conspiracy, which will play out later this week in Congress, which could also have an effect (and not only on Obama, but possibly on Hillary Clinton as well). Countering this may be the fight for immigration reform, where the public is squarely on the side of Obama and the Democrats. The most recent good news on the unemployment figures and the stock market may also provide a background effect on how the public feels about the job Obama's doing.
If I had to place a bet, though, I think I'd put my money right now on small changes (if any) in Obama's approval during May. The immigration battle may move to center stage, but then again it may be delayed into June. Overall, though, public support for Obama seems to have flattened out, which may mean next month's numbers will be pretty close to this month's.
Since that's a rather cautious prediction, I had to include here at the end a more optimistic note for Obama fans. For the past year or so, I've occasionally pointed out how similar Obama's approval has been to the numbers George W. Bush was charting throughout the same period in his presidency. This month, Obama may finally have broken away from this mold, since this month was really when Bush's numbers began taking a fearsome dive from which they'd never recover. See for yourself:
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
Last month, Bush and Obama were just about tied. This month, Bush's numbers had flipped and were about to sink into truly dismal territory. If Obama just manages to stay about where he's at now, in a few months his job approval will be 10 points above Bush's. Since I've been pointing out the Obama/Bush parallels for the past year, I thought it was worth it to see that this trend appears to be over. Barring unforeseen circumstances, of course.
That's it for this month, except to close with a program note to point out that I have now cleaned up the data section (below) so that it only shows data from Obama's second term, to save space. I've moved all the first term data to its own page on my site, for anyone interested in seeing the numbers or the archives of this column for Obama's first four years. Which saves a lot of room, here at the bottom of the column.
[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.
Obama's Second Term Statistical Records
Highest Monthly Approval -- 1/13 -- 52.7%
Lowest Monthly Approval -- 3/13 -- 48.5%
Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 4/13 -- 46.8%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/13 -- 42.6%
Highest Daily Approval -- 1/31/13 -- 52.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 4/1/13 -- 47.3%
Highest Daily Disapproval -- 4/23/13 -- 47.8%
Lowest Daily Disapproval -- 2/24/13 -- 42.3%
Obama's Second Term Raw Monthly Data
[All-time high in bold, all-time low underlined.]
Month -- (Approval / Disapproval / Undecided)
04/13 -- 48.6 / 46.8 / 4.6
03/13 -- 48.5 / 46.3 / 5.2
02/13 -- 51.1 / 43.0 / 5.9
01/13 -- 52.7 / 42.6 / 4.7
Second Term Column Archives
First Term Data
To save space, the only data and statistics listed above are from Obama's second term. If you'd like to see the data and stats from Obama's first term, including a list of links to the full archives of the Obama Poll Watch column for the first term, we've set up an Obama Poll Watch First Term Data page, for those still interested.
-- Chris Weigant
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant