Another bad August for Obama
President Barack Obama just had another bad August in the polls. This doesn't come as any real surprise, as summer seems to be the worst time of year for him throughout his term in office. Last month Obama posted the first positive July he ever has, but this month he reverted to form and slipped significantly in his job approval polling. Let's take a look at the new chart.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
Obama's job approval number took a bigger hit last month than he's seen in over a year. His monthly average job approval dropped a full percentage point, down to 44.7 percent. He did a little better in his monthly average job disapproval, which only rose 0.4 percent, to 50.4 percent.
Although Obama charted a bad month in August, we should really put the numbers in some perspective. Obama just had a good month in July, where his approval rose 1.1 percent and his disapproval fell 0.7 percent. Over the entire calendar year, Obama has been remarkably stable, in fact, and he's been in one of those plateau periods where he stays within a tight range. Obama's August numbers (both of them) are only 0.1 point off where he was in January (44.8 approval, 50.5 disapproval), in fact. Since January, Obama's job approval ratings have fluctuated within only a 1.1 percent range, from 44.6 to 45.7 -- every number he's posted this year falls within that gap. On disapproval, Obama's been even more consistent, staying within only a 0.9 percent range, from 49.9 percent to 50.8 percent for the entire eight-month period.
August, as predicted, was almost entirely consumed by the presidential race. This is going to be a major factor in the political world for the next year, and Obama and Congress are going to be much more in the background. This August was almost completely dominated by Donald Trump and his rather unique campaign, and even on the Democratic side the stories were about Hillary Clinton (and her emails) and whether Joe Biden would jump in the race (I should mention that Bernie Sanders continues to rise in the polls, while the press continues to mostly ignore him). But most of the attention was on the Republicans, who held their first nationally-televised debate of the 2016 presidential season. They'll be holding at least one debate per month for the rest of the year, meaning they'll be drawing most of the attention (at least until Democrats get around to debating). However, the presidential race has little impact on President Obama's job approval ratings.
Obama spent August building some major pieces of his foreign policy legacy. Cuba and America opened embassies in each other's capitals, which historians will likely later point to as the final gasp of the Cold War. For over half a century, America and Cuba were at odds, but moving forward the relationship is bound to improve even more dramatically than it already has. John Kerry opened the U.S. embassy in Havana, the first secretary of state to visit the island since the Kennedy administration. Behind the scenes, Obama lobbied Democrats in Congress hard for his Iran nuclear deal. As of today, he is one vote shy (in the Senate) of guaranteeing that the deal will indeed go through. But much of this occurred beyond the public view, so it didn't affect his polling all that much. What may have added to his downswing, though, was the multimillion-dollar ad campaign Israel and Jewish lobbyists deployed against the Iran deal on the airwaves.
Obama ended the month of August by restoring the original name to the highest point in North America. This actually led to some supportive words from a few Republicans (all of them from Alaska), although it did upset some Ohio politicians (since McKinley hailed from Ohio). But changing from "Mount McKinley" to "Denali" isn't likely to change Obama's job approval much. Filming an adventure episode with Bear Grylls might, though, whenever it airs.
The overall trend is mostly flat, even with the dip in August's numbers. As noted, Obama's had a pretty consistent year, hovering around 45 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval. This is a marked improvement from 2014, it bears pointing out. The other reason August isn't that big of a concern for Obama fans is that he seems to be already recovering from the worst of it.
Obama started out August roughly where his July average was, but in the middle of the month he got a few bad polls which dragged his numbers down. His approval started off at 45.9 percent, but by the 22nd was down to 43.6 percent. By month's end, however, the outlier polls were dropping off, and Obama had improved to 44.9 percent. His disapproval numbers stayed much steadier, and actually dropped down to 49.2 percent on the 12th of the month. But then Obama's disapproval spiked at the same time approval did, rising all the way to 52.0 percent. But month's end this was down to 51.3 percent, but it seems the disapproval trend is lagging the approval trend here by about a week.
September is going to be a month of confrontation with Congress, for Obama. Two big fights are scheduled to happen -- the Iran deal vote and a big budget battle some Republicans may take to the shutdown edge again, this time over Planned Parenthood funding. It's hard to say whether this will help or hurt the president's approval ratings, but Obama will definitely be more prominent in the political news next month than he was in August. The public polling on the Iran deal has been mixed, but it seems almost certain Obama's going to score a victory in Congress. If a shutdown actually happens, the public will (as they always do) blame the Republicans for it, which could cause Obama's numbers to rise. As I said, it's uncertain how the public will react to all of this, but President Obama is going to be in the political spotlight much more in September than he was in August, for better or worse.
[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)
08/15 -- 44.7 / 50.4 / 4.9
07/15 -- 45.7 / 50.0 / 4.3
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
[July 15], [June 15], [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
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