Obviously, there are other things happening today in the world of politics, but instead of commenting upon them, we're going to stick to the schedule and instead offer up an abbreviated Obama Poll Watch column. It'll be somewhat shorter this month, due to the results having been accurately predicted in last month's column, and due to the fact that the situation on the ground in Washington is changing fast -- not weekly or daily, but hourly. Until we see how this week plays out, it's really anyone's guess how it'll affect the polling.
So, having said that, let's get right to it. September was a dismal month for Obama's job approval poll numbers, but even though the numbers were low, there was not much actual movement throughout the month -- meaning Obama has likely bottomed out at roughly where he stands now. Let's take a look at the chart:
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
September was notable mostly for foreign policy, as the Syrian situation reached crisis stage, and then diplomacy broke out. Since not many Americans were on board with attacking yet another country in the Middle East, the net result was pretty much what the citizenry wanted to see -- removal of the chemical weapons without a shot being fired by the U.S. Following closely on the heels of this was Iran's "charm offensive" (isn't that term an oxymoron, on some level?) to the United Nations and to President Obama in particular. As I said, diplomacy seems to be breaking out in the Middle East.
Liberals won a victory in September when Larry Summers was basically forced to withdraw his name for consideration for Federal Reserve Chair, but it was such an inside-baseball bit of news that it didn't seep out to the outside-the-Beltway consciousness much (if at all). Two Democrats were recalled by Colorado voters over gun control, but it didn't have a whole lot of impact at the national level.
Of course, the month ended with yet another budgetary showdown, but as I mentioned, only the run-up to this shutdown entered into September's polling, and minimally at that. More on the trendlines later.
Obama finished September with an average monthly approval rating of 43.9 percent, down a half a percent from last month. His average disapproval number went up 0.6 percent, ending at 50.8 percent. Both numbers were the worst Obama's posted for his second term, continuing a five-month trend. For comparison purposes, Obama is now roughly within a half-percent of his all-time worst numbers for both terms, from October of 2011. Obama's worst posting was 43.4 percent approval and 51.2 percent disapproval.
This all sounds pretty dismal for Obama fans, and it is. But there are two trendlines which may just show a glimpse of a silver lining. The first is that Obama had his most stable month ever. His daily averages changed within a smaller range than has happened in any previous month. His daily approval rating wavered between 43.5 percent and 44.5 percent, a difference of only a single percent. His daily disapproval average fluctuated even less (0.9 percent), between 50.4 percent and 51.3 percent. This likely shows that Obama has reached bottom in the polling, rather than continuing the slide downwards he's been on since getting re-elected. In the previous month, for comparison, Obama's daily approval range was 1.9 percentage points wide, and his disapproval range was 2.6 percent.
The second trend which is optimistic for Obama was a sharp upward movement in the final days of September, in the run-up to the shutdown. His best data point in the past few days was hitting 52 percent approval in Rasmussen's daily polling -- a number he hasn't seen for quite a while from Rasmussen. This is bringing his approval sharply up, and if it continues will bode well for him in next month's polling. Another way to show this is to look at the 27th of the month versus the last day of September. On the 27th, Obama hit his monthly low for approval and his monthly high for disapproval (43.5 percent and 51.3 percent). By yesterday, he had hit a monthly best for approval, though, at 44.5 percent, and just missed a monthly best in disapproval by 0.2 percent, at 50.6. That's a pretty quick turnaround, and as stated, bodes well for the beginning of October.
There is one thing that will happen, likely at some point in October (I must confess, I don't know the scheduling of such a data release), which will indeed help Obama, especially in budgetary negotiating. Because the 2013 fiscal year just closed, we will be getting hard numbers for exactly what the budget figures were for last year. And there's one number in particular which is going to be big news (at least, to those of us who don't pay attention to behind-the-scenes trends) -- the total 2013 deficit number. Most expect that this number will be somewhere around $650 billion. This will fulfill a big Obama campaign promise, to cut the deficit in half in his first term. When he took office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion, or precisely twice what last year's deficit turned out to be. When this number is announced, it is going to change the budget conversation in Congress in a big way, and to Obama's advantage. This may help him in the polls, as well.
Of course, the gigantic monkey wrench of a government shutdown may have all sorts of unforeseen effects, especially in job approval polling. My humble guess (and it is precisely that -- just a guess) is that Obama is going to reap a "rally 'round the president" bump upwards in polling in the next few days (continuing the last few days' trend), as liberal Americans give Obama credit for not caving in to Tea Party demands. There is a portion of the Left which has been highly annoyed at Obama for all his deal-making with the Republicans so far, but now that he doesn't have to worry about re-election, he is a lot freer to hold firm. This will get some liberals back to the fold.
However, I also think that the longer the shutdown goes on, there will be a countering trend which hurts Obama. The vast majority of Americans (are you sitting down?) don't pay much attention to politics. I'd put this as high as 70-75 percent, personally. They don't follow the day-to-day "who's up / who's down" rollercoaster that it'd be a fair bet to say that anyone reading this column is intensely aware of. But Americans do know utter dysfunction when they see it, and they don't like it. So if the shutdown is settled by, say, the end of the week then Obama's poll numbers will likely benefit. But if it goes on throughout the month, then Obama will be feeling some pain.
My guess is that Obama is going to see better poll numbers throughout the month, but again, I am basing this purely on gut feeling at this point. We'll see you back here next month to see whether this turns out to be right or not.
[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 -- 9/13 -- 43.9%
Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 9/13 -- 50.8%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/13 -- 42.6%
Highest Daily Approval -- 1/31/13 -- 52.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 9/8-27/13 (various dates) -- 43.5%
Highest Daily Disapproval -- 9/27/13 -- 51.3%
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)
09/13 -- 43.9 / 50.8 / 5.3
08/13 -- 44.4 / 50.2 / 5.4
07/13 -- 45.3 / 49.2 / 5.5
06/13 -- 46.5 / 48.5 / 5.0
05/13 -- 48.3 / 46.9 / 4.8
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
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