A volatile month
June was a busy month for President Obama's job approval ratings. Lots of things were happening during the month, good and bad, and Obama's approval rating swung through an initial steep decline, but then at the end of the month experienced a spectacular recovery. What July will bring is anyone's guess, in other words. Obama wound up down for the month when the monthly averages were calculated, but they could very easily go right back up again in July. Here's our updated chart.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
June is a tough month for President Obama -- it always has been. In fact, his job approval rating has gone down in each and every June since he took office. Sometimes these drops can be large (as in 2011, when he lost a whopping 2.9 points) or modest (as in 2012, when he only lost 0.3 percent). This year, Obama dropped 0.8 percent in average monthly job approval, down to 44.6 percent. His average monthly job disapproval number climbed 0.7 points, to wind up at 50.7 percent.
We'll dissect the data for the month of June in the next section (since the monthly average approval/disapproval numbers don't tell the whole story this month), but first let's review what happened during the month to cause Obama's numbers to bounce around so much.
Obama scored a big political victory in Congress this month, but the problem with it was that it wasn't exactly on a favorite issue for the Democratic voter base. Obama managed to get fast-track authority for negotiating trade deals through both houses of Congress, even in the face of stiff resistance from members of his own party. However, in the end, Obama won with lots of Republican votes. This didn't exactly endear him to Republican voters, but it did turn off a lot of Democrats. This is the best explanation of why his poll numbers headed downwards for the first half of the month.
In other political news from June, everybody and his brother (literally, in Jeb!'s case) jumped into the race for the Republican presidential nomination. This provided some amusing moments during the month, but none of it was really directly related to Obama, so all the campaign launches likely didn't have much effect on his polling.
However, the end of the month was much better political terrain for Obama. The tragedy of a murderously racist domestic terrorist in Charleston was one of those national events which generate a "rally 'round the president" effect, and this was driven home by Obama giving a very heartfelt and presidential eulogy at one of the funerals. The shootings sparked an enormous debate about the Confederate battle flag, which Obama was clearly on the right side of as well.
Then at the very end of the month, the Supreme Court gave Obama two big victories. The first was the most personal, since Republicans have cemented his own name to his biggest legislative achievement as president. "Obamacare" won its second straight court victory, as the Supreme Court signaled once again that Republicans are going to have to make any changes to it legislatively, since this court obviously isn't interested in dismantling it. The ruling, stunningly, was by a 6-3 vote -- an even bigger margin than the last Obamacare court win.
The second bit of good news for Obama was indirect, since he personally didn't have anything to do with the marriage equality case that made it to the high court. But ever since his famous "evolution," Obama has been a strong supporter of marriage equality, and it was such a great feel-good victory that Obama very likely benefited in the polls (even if he didn't have anything to do with the case). So while the start of the month saw a sharp drop in Obama's job approval polling, the end of the month was an even-sharper bounce back up.
Before we discuss the overall trends (and dive a little deeper into June's numbers), let's take a look at an expanded chart where the month-to-month movement can be more clearly seen.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
As I previously mentioned, Obama's average monthly numbers only tell part of the story this month. The volatility was the real surprise. Obama ended May at 45.7 percent approval (his daily Real Clear Politics average for the last day of the month). One day later, on the first of June, that number dropped to 44.6 percent -- almost a full point's drop in one day. This trend would continue until mid-month, when Obama hit a low of 43.5 percent in the daily job approval average. But then in the last 10 days of the month, Obama's numbers rose dramatically, to end the month at 46.5 percent.
Let's put these numbers in perspective. Obama's job approval (daily averages) went through a swing of 3.0 percent within the month (within the last two weeks of the month, actually). The last time that's happened was December of 2013. Obama hit a high of 46.5 percent in the daily ratings, a number he hasn't posted in two years (the last time was in June of 2013). So the month had some low points, and some high points for Obama's approval rating, along with a wild swing down followed by a wild swing back up.
Interestingly, Obama's job disapproval numbers didn't experience swings that were quite as wide. The trendline was similar (mirror-image, of course) to the approval numbers -- Obama's monthly average job disapproval went up from 49.9 percent to a high of 51.5 percent halfway through the month, then dropped back down to 49.8 at the very end. Two things are notable, when comparing approval to disapproval, though. The first is that the movement wasn't as drastic. Obama's job disapproval daily averages only varied by 1.7 percent -- a little over half of the range of his approval numbers. He also didn't experience as much of an initial drop at the beginning of the month, and he actually ended the month exactly where he ended May (at 49.8 percent disapproval). The second thing worth noting is that Obama's job disapproval (daily average) isn't anywhere near as low as it was in June of 2013 (the last time his approval number was in similar territory). He'd have to be below 48.0 percent disapproval to be in the same range as he was back then, and he's a full two percentage points over that, currently.
Now, this may be a lag -- if Obama's approval numbers continue to improve, his disapproval numbers will sooner or later come down more. Part of it may also be explained by the fact that when the two numbers get close to each other (the crossover point), weird things can happen in how the data appears. Right now, Obama's approval is sharply spiking upwards, while his disapproval is gradually coming down. One or the other of those trends will have to change to match its counterpart soon -- the only question is which it will be.
Obama could continue spiking upwards in approval, which would force his disapproval to fall quicker. He could end his spike upwards, and his approval numbers could flatten out to match the more gradual movement in disapproval. Or, worst of all for Obama fans, this could all be a temporary "feel-good" bounce, from the news of the last few weeks. This bump could just as easily fade quickly away, leaving just a sharp bounce up followed by a slide back down.
Obama certainly got July off to a good start. He announced today the reopening of embassies in Cuba and America, and he is about to formally announce a change in the way employers must pay overtime rates which could favorably affect up to five million workers' families. Either people will be getting more money for the same amount of work, or they will be getting more free time to spend with their families. That's a pretty big win for the middle class (everyone making up to roughly $50,000 a year), and my guess is it's going to be wildly popular. Obama is making this change slowly (it won't actually affect anyone's paycheck until 2016), but he'll be able to make the rule change on his own -- Congress will not be involved in the decision. So it looks like a done deal, at this point.
There are two possible issues which could hurt Obama coming up in the next month, both in the foreign policy realm. The deal with Iran missed its deadline, but it'll be in the news until a deal is reached or until the parties walk away from the table (over the next week or two). And the fast-track trade authority Obama won in Congress was just the precursor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal fight, which will be another contentious issue for Obama with his own party's base.
Overall, because June was so volatile, it's tough to predict what'll happen in July. Obama's trendlines could continue to improve, of course. A more likely outcome might be that they flatten out, but retain the progress he made in June. Historically, this is the most likely (when looking at all the data since Obama took office). But they could represent nothing more than a short-term "rally 'round the president" bounce, which in July could melt away like the morning dew.
[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 -- 11/13 -- 41.4%
Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 12/13 -- 54.0%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/13 -- 42.6%
Highest Daily Approval -- 1/31/13 -- 52.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 12/2/13 -- 39.8%
Highest Daily Disapproval -- 12/2/13 -- 55.9%
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)
06/15 -- 44.6 / 50.7 / 4.7
05/15 -- 45.4 / 50.0 / 4.6
04/15 -- 45.2 / 49.9 / 4.9
03/15 -- 44.9 / 50.8 / 4.3
02/15 -- 45.4 / 50.1 / 4.5
01/15 -- 44.8 / 50.5 / 4.7
12/14 -- 42.4 / 52.8 / 4.8
11/14 -- 42.0 / 53.4 / 4.6
10/14 -- 42.1 / 53.4 / 4.5
09/14 -- 41.5 / 53.5 / 5.0
08/14 -- 41.6 / 53.0 / 5.4
07/14 -- 41.8 / 53.6 / 4.6
06/14 -- 42.4 / 53.4 / 4.2
05/14 -- 44.0 / 51.7 / 4.3
04/14 -- 43.4 / 52.1 / 4.5
03/14 -- 42.9 / 52.8 / 4.3
02/14 -- 43.3 / 52.3 / 4.4
01/14 -- 42.7 / 52.7 / 4.6
12/13 -- 41.9 / 54.0 / 4.1
11/13 -- 41.4 / 53.9 / 4.7
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
[May 15], [Apr 15], [Mar 15], [Feb 15], [Jan 15], [Dec 14], [Nov 14], [Oct 14], [Sep 14], [Aug 14], [Jul 14], [Jun 14], [May 14], [Apr 14], [Mar 14], [Feb 14], [Jan 14], Dec 13], [Nov 13], [Oct 13], 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
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post
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