Another Good Month For Obama
During his presidency, every year that Barack Obama's job approval rating has gone up in January, he has followed it up with an increase in February. This year was no different. After impressive gains to start the year off, Obama followed up with smaller (but still substantial) gains in February. As with last month, this is clearly visible on the new chart.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
The political news in February was, for the most part, dominated by the ongoing presidential race. The primary season finally began, and after the first four states voted all attention turned to Super Tuesday. Throughout it all, Obama wasn't in the news much himself, meaning there were no critical events (good or bad) during the month which impacted how the public felt about him.
The only really stunning political event to occur last month was the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. This only peripherally impacted the president, but will do so in much bigger ways over the next few months. The Republicans in Congress have vowed not to perform their constitutional duty of vetting anyone Obama nominates to the highest bench, which looks to be an enormous political fight throughout the entire election season. But it really didn't have a whole lot of impact in February, since Obama has yet to name anyone.
Other than that, it was a fairly quiet month politically. Notably absent was any sort of grandstanding and showdown over the budget -- an event that has taken place in Februarys past during Obama's term. The budget deal struck by the outgoing John Boehner still appears to be holding, for better or worse. Paul Ryan is quietly struggling with his own caucus over whether they're going to put a budget together for next year, but only political wonks have paid any attention to his problems.
As I mentioned last month, I think there's a subtle boost to Obama's job approval rating coming from the Democratic presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton (in particular) is running essentially to be the third term of Obama's agenda. This was prominently on display during the primary race in South Carolina, and will remain a focus of her campaign throughout the entire election. This may be having a positive background effect on Obama's poll ratings, but I should mention that this is based on nothing more than my own gut feeling.
For February, Barack Obama's monthly average poll rating improved by a healthy 0.8 percent, up to a total of 46.3 percent. His disapproval rating fell 0.6 percent to reach 49.6 percent. To put these numbers in their proper context, this is the highest his approval rating has been in the last 32 months. It is the lowest disapproval rating for the past 31 months. Obama is now regaining ground he lost when his second term "honeymoon" period with the public ended. That's pretty impressive, although he's still got a ways to go (when sworn into office the second time, Obama's approval was at 52.7 percent and disapproval at 42.6 percent).
Let's take a closer look at Obama's entire second term. Normally I run these detail charts only going back a year, so that the movement of one month can be seen much clearer. The following chart instead shows Obama's entire second term, back to January of 2013.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
As you can see, the falloff from the honeymoon period was pretty sharp, and bottomed out at the end of 2013 at barely over 41 percent. This coincided with both the government shutdown and the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare exchange website.
Obama then struggled throughout 2014 to even reach 44 percent approval, then fell back to the 41 percent range by the end of the year (when the midterm elections happened). However, he started off 2015 much stronger, jumping sharply up to the 45 percent level and holding fast there for almost the entire year. He briefly dipped down below 44 percent at the end of last year, but he's now recovered all the ground he lost in November and December -- and more.
As you can plainly see, last month was the first time since June of 2013 that Obama's managed to top 46 percent in his monthly approval average. This is all good news for Obama fans, but the news is in fact even better than it appears, showing a strong trend heading upwards as March begins.
After starting February strong (daily approval 46.9 percent), Obama got two bad polls added into the mix, mid-month. One was within the range of other recent polling, but one was so far outside this range (putting Obama at only 40 percent approval) that it dragged down his average for the entire second half of the month. These outliers have now disappeared from the rolling daily average at Real Clear Politics (where I get all my data, I should mention), putting him in very strong position heading into March. There is a very good chance Obama's approval numbers will get even better next month, to put this another way.
The truly impressive trend is that President Obama is on the verge of finally getting his approval/disapproval numbers "above water" once again (where his approval is higher than his disapproval). The gap between the two has been underwater since the middle of 2013, but this gap is shrinking fast. His worst underwater measure was in November of 2013 (after the Obamacare website fiasco), when his average monthly disapproval was 12.5 points higher than his approval. The lowest this gap got in 2014 was 7.7 percent, after which it rose back up to 12.0 percent. Last year was better for Obama, and the underwater gap ranged from 4.3 percent to 7.9 percent. This year, Obama started off by shrinking that 7.9 he hit in December down to 4.7 percent in January and then improving it to 3.3 percent in February.
It may be just a momentary blip in the charts, but his daily average numbers today are only 1.3 percent apart. With just a tad more improvement, Obama could see his daily numbers break above the waves at some point during March. This hasn't happened since June 7, 2013, so it would indeed be a milestone.
Of course, there are always fluctuations in the daily numbers, which is why we only use monthly averages for our charts. Even if Obama did get his numbers above water in the daily ratings, he would have to have an extraordinarily good month to do so in our monthly averages. Still, the fact that this is even a possibility is the best news Obama poll watchers have had in a very long time.
[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)
02/16 -- 46.3 / 49.6 / 4.1
01/16 -- 45.5 / 50.2 / 4.3
12/15 -- 43.7 / 51.6 / 4.7
11/15 -- 44.4 / 51.3 / 4.3
10/15 -- 45.3 / 50.0 / 4.7
09/15 -- 45.6 / 50.3 / 4.1
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
[Jan 16], [Dec 15], [Nov 15], [Oct 15], [Sep 15], [Aug 15], [Jul 15], [Jun 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
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant