A Big Milestone
President Obama's job approval among the public hit a big milestone last month, as he wound up with a monthly average of exactly 50 percent. Half the public approves of the job he's doing, to put this another way. This was a rather dramatic improvement over Obama's rather flat May numbers. Let's take a look at the new chart, where his improvement is pretty easy to see.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
Obama's improvement in his monthly average job approval numbers had slowed somewhat in April and May, but the trend steepened in June. His average jumped 1.2 percent last month, to finish at the round figure of 50.0 percent. His average monthly disapproval fell by a roughly equal amount (1.1 percent) to wind up at 46.2 percent. The past six months has been the longest winning streak Obama has had during his entire presidency, in fact (more on this in a bit), and he has now regained all the ground he lost since his "second honeymoon" period. His numbers are now 3.8 percent "above water," which is a comfortable margin considering that two years ago he was 11.0 percent "below water." By just about every metric, Obama has been doing great ever since the presidential contest really got underway at the start of this year.
At the start of June, the primary phase of the election drew to a close. Hillary Clinton finally topped the magic number of delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, and Donald Trump kept spouting gaffes, effectively blowing an early chance to define Clinton (rather than further negatively define himself) in the eyes of the public. The list of prominent Republicans who said they either could not support their own party's presidential candidate or (even worse) would be voting for Hillary Clinton seemed to grow longer each day. All in all, it was a pretty good month for Democrats out on the campaign trail.
President Obama didn't himself join in the campaigning yet -- in fact, as I write this he is probably making his first such appearance, at a Hillary rally in North Carolina. So campaigning didn't have anything to do with Obama's poll improvement in June, but it may have a direct influence in July.
Clinton got one piece of good news during June (and one more today, obviously), as Trey Gowdy wrapped up the final (hopefully!) Benghazi investigation and announced that Americans had spent $7 million on a giant nothingburger. No new revelations, no scandal at all was laid at the feet of Clinton. But this likely didn't influence Obama's polling at all.
Mid-month we had the tragedy in Orlando, which spurred a surprisingly intense Democratic reaction in Congress. Rather than fight a wide-ranging battle over gun control, Democrats focused on just two pieces of legislation that both enjoy over 85 percent support from the public. This was pretty smart politics, and things got rather dramatic in the Senate with the ninth-longest filibuster in history -- which was then topped by a 26-hour "sit-in" in the House. Both are going to result in votes, but nothing is actually going to pass. Still, this was excellent political theater from the Democrats, much more focused and effective than anything they've tried in a long time.
Britain dominated the news for about a week as many hands were wrung over their "Brexit." While an enormous story across the pond, however, this will fade from America's consciousness fairly soon (that's my guess, at any rate).
The end of June is always "big Supreme Court decision season," and this year saw a lot of liberal victories and only a few temporary setbacks. The big case that went conservatives' way was a 4-4 split, meaning it'll likely be back again next year (when, hopefully, there will be another liberal justice on the bench).
All around, though, there were few political news cycles in June that directly involved President Obama. Meaning what moved his numbers upwards was likely a general feeling about the ongoing election. The more people look at Trump, the more they like Obama, in a nutshell.
I was cautiously optimistic last month, predicting that: "I could even see him topping the significant 50 percent barrier within a few months, although this likely won't happen next month (maybe in July or August, after the convention)." Obama did, impressively, beat my expectations and hit the significant 50.0 percent goal. This puts him in better shape than he's been since February of 2013 -- the month after his second inauguration. To see the movement more clearly, here is an exploded view of Obama's entire second term.
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
Obama's rise in job approval since last December is nothing short of stunning -- gaining 6.3 percent over a six-month period with no downturns at all. In fact, this is the longest streak of monthly gains in job approval Obama has had during his entire time in office (the closest he ever previously came was when he rose steadily for five months during his re-election).
Obama seems to have snapped out of the doldrums he hit in spring, too. In both April and May he only managed to improve 0.2 percent per month, but this month alone he rose 1.2 points. When you look within the June data, the trendline all month long is strong, with one caveat. Obama's daily job approval started the month at 48.9 percent, jumped the next day to 49.4 percent, and then rose steadily to hit a high of 51.2 percent towards the end of the month. Obama's job disapproval numbers mirrored this trend, starting at 47.5 percent and then dipping to 45.0 percent towards the end of June. Obama hasn't been above 51 percent approval since the first few weeks after his second inauguration, in fact.
But there's a worrisome counter-trend which may be developing. In that previous paragraph the key phrase was "towards the end of the month." Obama's daily average sank rather fast in the final three days of the month, winding up at 50.1 percent approval and 45.9 percent disapproval. This could indicate a flattening of the trend next month, with either a very slight uptick or a very slight slide back. Now, I don't think that the 50 percent mark is going to be a ceiling for Obama -- I think by the election he'll be higher than that. But it could wind up being a plateau for a few months. I'm seriously doubtful Obama can match his big gains in June, to put this another way. He could surprise me again, especially if the news media start covering him on Hillary's campaign trail. But the safe bet is for a fairly flat July.
Of course, Obama may wind up getting a boost in August, as the Democratic National Convention will be held the last week in July. But that's looking further over the horizon than normal, so we'll leave that speculation for next month.
One final historical note for June is necessary, though. I've been speculating for months now how Obama's final year in office will shape up compared to other two-term presidents. Obama will never hit Bill Clinton's heights, but then again he will not plumb George W. Bush's depths, either (Clinton was at 59.1 percent approval at this point, Bush was at 27.8 percent and wouldn't rise above 30 percent for the rest of his term).
But this month, Obama is doing slightly better than one previous two-termer. Here's the comparison chart:
[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]
Ronald Reagan was at 49.5 percent at this point in his second term. Obama's got him beat by half a point. However, Reagan rose sharply for the rest of the year and finished up at an impressive 63.0 percent. Barack Obama is likely not going to be able to match those numbers, even if he does get a warm fuzzy feeling during the lame duck period. Still, at this point in their respective terms in office, Obama's doing better than Reagan did -- food for thought indeed.
[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)
06/16 -- 50.0 / 46.2 / 3.8
05/16 -- 48.8 / 47.3 / 3.9
04/16 -- 48.6 / 47.2 / 4.2
03/16 -- 48.4 / 47.4 / 4.2
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
[May 16], [Apr 16], [Mar 16], [Feb 16], [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