Obama Poll Watch -- October, 2013

[ Posted Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 – 16:54 UTC ]

Some surprising good news

Welcome back to our monthly look at how President Obama's doing in the job approval polling. It is election day today, but it's a fairly minor one, and I already did a write-up on the three major races yesterday, so check it out if you're sitting around waiting for returns to come in.

While Obama hit an all-time low in one recent poll which made a few headlines this week, he's actually not had that bad a month, relatively. In fact, his monthly average job approval number rose for only the second time in his second term. Obama had good news and bad news battling it out this month, and his polling reflected this tension. But the news for Obama in October was a lot better than you might think.

First, let's take a look at the chart with October's numbers added in.

Obama Approval -- October 2013

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

October, 2013

October 2013 had two major political storylines happen. The first: Obama stands strong, House Republicans blink on government shutdown. The second: the Obamacare website rollout was a disaster. If Dan Rather were to choose one of his "jes' folks" sayings to describe the Obamacare website's first month, he might select "screwed the pooch," in fact.

But while that's what's prominent in the news now, what dominated the first half of the month was the idiocy of the Republicans shutting down the federal government and threatening a default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America because they can't seem to figure out that a majority of one house of the legislative branch doesn't equate to "we get everything we want, all the time." Obama, much to the shocked surprise of some doom-and-gloom lefties, actually stood firm throughout the crisis. He didn't cave. He didn't give in. He waited until the Republicans figured out how much damage they were doing not just to the entire country but also to their own party's brand. And during this period, his approval ratings went up. His daily average hit numbers Obama hadn't seen since the beginning of August. This rise would have been more noticeable if it weren't for one outlier poll which put him at 37 percent approval, while most other polls had Obama in the high 40s (at the least) and some were placing his approval in the low 50s.

But then the shutdown ended, and since that point it has been all "Obamacare stinks" headlines for the remainder of the month. His good poll numbers sank back down, and he ended the month on a low, trending downward. So there was a lot of action in the polling in October, which our monthly number won't accurately reflect.

For October, Barack Obama's monthly job approval average was 44.2 percent, which is up 0.3 percent from the previous month. This is notable, since Obama's only had one other month in all of 2013 where he moved in a positive direction (a 0.1 percent gain in April). Obama's job disapproval remained unchanged at 50.8 percent, the first time this year he hasn't lost ground.

Also for the first time in quite a while, Obama did not set new second-term record highs and lows in the monthly numbers. His daily averages, however, still did set a new record for low approval and high disapproval. And that disapproval high was set right at the end of the month. So, all in all, a mixed month for the president.


Overall Trends

The immediate trend for Obama is looking bad. He enters November on a low, and he could quite possibly be headed lower. Not only is the Obamacare website a joke, it is the leading joke on all the late-night comedy shows. That, PR-wise, is a very bad place to be in.

November will be "fix the Obamacare site" month. Which all but guarantees that any good news about the website isn't going to be announced until the very end of the month. An interesting thing to note is that the weekend after Thanksgiving would be a really convenient time for the website to start working, because millions of Americans will have the time and inclination to sign up then. So we'll see how it goes.

But Obama's got at least two or three more weeks of "This just in: website still sucks" headlines to get through before then. What that could mean for his polling is pretty obvious -- a downturn which might indeed hit the lowest monthly polling number Obama's ever received (43.4 approval, 51.2 disapproval, in October of 2011). It's going to be a rough month, in other words. If the website finally starts reliably working, then Obama's got a good shot at improving in December, but not before he gets through the rest of this month first.

However, having said all of that, I have to say that those who are predicting absolute disaster for the president's future job approval numbers are getting a little overwrought. I even heard one story circulate this week that Obama "could match Nixon's numbers" in job approval.

This is pretty outlandish, when you check the actual historical record. Let's take a look at the Obama-v-Nixon chart:

Obama v. Nixon

Nixon, at this point in his term, had entered a death spiral in job approval polling from which he would never recover. His job approval for October of his second term was a dismal 28.5 percent. This was a fall from January of that month (59.0 percent) of epic proportions. Obama is in nowhere near as bad shape. From this January, Obama has fallen less than 9 points, whereas Nixon's numbers crashed by over 30 points. So "Obama is the new Nixon" is just not going to fly, at this point. I'd be willing to bet that Obama's numbers are not going to match Nixon's at any point, in fact.

Of course, there's another matchup to consider, one that we've included here on and off for the past two years or so. And that is Obama versus his predecessor, George W. Bush. Let's take a look at the chart to see how this one's playing out:

Obama v. Bush

While Obama currently looks better than Bush, the jury could reasonably (unlike with Nixon) be considered to still be out on whether Obama's second term will wind up looking like Bush's. Right now, Obama's doing better, but if the Republican predictions of Obamacare being a complete disaster from beginning to end come true, then it is conceivable it would become an albatross around Obama's job approval numbers for the rest of his term.

I don't think that's going to happen, but it is at least within the bounds of possible outcomes (again, unlike Nixon). There are two reasons I feel pretty comfortable thinking that Obama's going to have a much better second term than Bush, though. The first is that Obama seems to have a floor of around 40-42 percent that will approve of how he's doing his job absent any disastrous news (such as, say, the Hurricane Katrina fiasco). OK, this could change -- Bush, after all, had never slipped below 40 percent before he went into his own death spiral in the polling. But I think Obama's got a more committed base, personally.

The second reason I think Obama will do much better than Bush for the next three years is that I think Obamacare is just not going to turn into the apocalypse Republicans are so sure it will become. If the Obama folks can get the website running well by the end of the month -- and if it can survive the enormous spike in traffic it's going to get in early December -- then the website story will fade and people will start paying more attention to the actual realities of Obamacare. Stories of people "getting kicked off their insurance" will then be easy to counter with stories of how the same people can now shop around and get a much better deal.

Comparing Obama and Bush right now (and predicting the future) hinges on that basic question: do you think Obamacare will be fixed and work out OK, or do you think it'll be a train wreck that just gets worse and worse. I am in the former camp. But if those on the latter are right, it is conceivable that Obama's numbers could follow Bush's down. I don't think it's going to happen (to put it another way), but it could. But for this month, at least, Obama's beating Bush handily. Bush's numbers for October of 2005 were 40.5 percent approval (which sunk to 38.0 percent the following month) and 55.3 percent disapproval.


[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Sources And Methodology 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; 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, 10/13 -- 50.8%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/13 -- 42.6%

Highest Daily Approval -- 1/31/13 -- 52.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 10/15/13 -- 43.3%

Highest Daily Disapproval -- 10/29,31/13 -- 51.6%
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)
10/13 -- 44.2 / 50.8 / 5.0
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

[Sep 13], [Aug 13], [Jul 13], [Jun 13], [May 13], [Apr 13], [Mar 13], [Feb 13], [Jan 13]


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


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Obama Poll Watch -- October, 2013”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    General announcement -

    OK, folks, just went back and answered comments for Monday and FTP. Whew! Quite a little math debate on Friday...


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Not only is the Obamacare website a joke, it is the leading joke on all the late-night comedy shows.

    Careful now.. Yer gonna give everyone an antidote to the Obama koolaid!

    And THEN where will ya be!?? :D


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    But for this month, at least, Obama's beating Bush handily.

    Are you absolutely SURE about that?? :D


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Comparing Obama and Bush right now (and predicting the future) hinges on that basic question: do you think Obamacare will be fixed and work out OK, or do you think it'll be a train wreck that just gets worse and worse. I am in the former camp.

    What do you base that on???

    I am sincerely curious..


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Obama's "If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance" will go down in history coupled with other completely BS statements like "Read my lips! No New Taxes!"

    Of course, the reality is that President Bush like fully intended NOT to add new taxes when he made that statement..

    It's well documented that Obama knew that his "If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance" statement was completely and utter BS, every time he uttered it..

    Funny how the Left loves to point at GOP "lies" that aren't really even lies, but fall all over themselves defending a DEM POTUS who blatantly lied thru his teeth to the American people..

    There's a word for that...

    Ah yes... Hypocrisy....


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Most of ya'all are on record as saying you would support ANY Party with good ideas...

    So, let's see ya prove it.. :D


  7. [7] 
    db wrote:


    Keeping your current health care plan depends entirely on the for-profit private business selling such a plan. If they decide to no longer offer such plan; there's nothing the President, Congress, or you can do about it.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Sorry, DB... Obama already tried that BS excuse...

    Keeping your current health care plan depends entirely on the for-profit private business selling such a plan.

    Not so...

    The insurance companies are dropping the plans to be in compliance with obamacare..

    If there had been no obamacare, the millions of Americans who liked their plans could have kept their plans...

    If they decide to no longer offer such plan; there's nothing the President, Congress, or you can do about it.

    But it wasn't the insurance companies who decided not to carry those plans.

    It was obamacare that decided...

    Spin all you want.

    Obama promised millions of Americans that if they liked their plan they could keep their plan.

    He lied. Pure and simple...


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Less than 3 more weeks....

    And then obamacare will become Obama's TrainWreck Care.... :D


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Knowing something about IT, I feel for the IT geeks that have to fix obamacare...

    Not only do they have to fix this humongous train wreck, but they have to do it in such away so that the few hundred who DID actually sign up won't have to do it again...

    A Herculean task, to be sure...

    I don't envy them in the least...


  11. [11] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale [3] -

    That's why we do a "poll of poll of polls" here, averaging monthly the daily averages on RCP. Smooths out the bumps.

    November's going to be brutal for Obama, no doubt about that, though. December's when he has a chance of really rebounding. We'll see.

    [4] -

    OK, it's a serious question, so here's a short (but serious) answer. If anything isn't clear, ask, and I'll provide a longer explanation.

    I feel that Obamacare will eventually be just fine because of the history of:

    * Medicare Part D (prescription drug benefit) -- horrendous startup, political fiasco (for Republicans), but was eventually fixed and now beloved by millions upon millions of seniors. Oh, and it's getting even better now, because Obamacare is slowly getting rid of the "donut hole."

    * Romneycare -- perhaps the best example. Initial problems, to be sure, slow startup until the deadlines loomed (like this year's Dec 15th), but now successful and well-loved by an overwhelming amount of MA residents. Only 4% of MA is uninsured. That is a success story. And, no matter what Romney would have you believe, Romneycare is essentially the same thing as Obamacare. So once the website problems are fixed, the system has indeed been proven to work. By Mitt Romney himself.

    * the history of Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security -- all were limited and clunky when they first started. Now they are successful and appreciated, because of further refinement and legislative fixes made. Despite all the Republican scaremongering which happened when each program passed into law.

    So, you see, I am basing my gut feeling on history. A lot of history. That's a serious answer to your question.

    I think Obamacare website problems will (eventually) be fixed. Can't say when that will happen, and deadlines may have to slip -- but sooner or later, the site will work as designed.

    Obamacare itself, well, I just look to the hard cold facts from MA.

    Michale [5] -

    Don't forget "I did not have sex with that woman" (thought you'd like that one) as well as, of course, "Mission Accomplished" and "we had nothing to do with selling weapons to the Contras."

    Every president gets caught in one (or more) of these, sooner or later. Although I do appreciate the fact that you used a GOP example first, I must say...

    Heh. Which is why I used the Clinton one first myself, just for you!


    Michale [6] -

    And the White House is coming up with its own administrative fix -- proving, once again, that I was right in the comments last week when I predicted that once Republicans started trying to FIX Obamacare instead of DESTROY it, then Democrats would be willing to do so.

    Michale [9] -

    OK, but if the website works, you have to keep calling it Obamacare, right? At least we're not insisting on you calling it the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," eh?

    [10] -

    Don't get me started, as I will get into the weeds of what needs to be done in the technical realm very quickly if given half a chance. The real problem, if you're interested, is not retaining the data of those already signed up, but doing "rolling bug fix versions" while keeping the site up and running (such as it is). It would have been easier to take the whole thing down for a week, and this is why when you hear "the site's going down for maintenance" it is actually good news, because it means they've got major fixes to roll out.

    Like I said, I can give you chapter and verse on this, but I doubt anybody'd really be interested.

    You are right in your final statement, though, it is indeed a Herculean task. Nice use of the term, too.



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