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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The poll truth

The mantra on FoxNews and right-wing radio talk shows is that President Barack Obama's poll numbers are "plunging" or "in the tank" or "dropping like a rock."

Bold statements. And outright lies.

Obama received 52.9 percent of the popular vote in the 2008 election. His opponent, Republican John McCain, drew 45.7 percent.

The latest Gallup poll (released yesterday, Feb. 14) shows Obama with a 53 percent approval rating. And the percentage of respondents that disapproves of Obama's job performance is 40 - nearly 6 points less than McCain's tally in the election.

In other words, the people who supported Obama in November 2008 still support him today. And not everyone who voted for McCain is dissatisfied with Obama.

In a nation as divided as ours, that's about the best any president can hope for.



Blogger Martin McPhillips said...

You're not reading the Gallup poll correctly. First, it's an approval-disapproval poll (not a re-elect poll). Second, it's a poll of all adults, not of likely voters (i.e., likely voters are the people who actually voted for Obama or McCain). Third, it has just ticked up to the numbers you present (53-40). A couple of weeks ago it was at 47-47, approve-disapprove. Fourth, a year ago Obama had a 67 percent approval in that poll. So, he is 14 points below his high rating and was recently 20 points off that high.

The numbers are volatile but the trend is down. No one expected him to stay at 67 approve in Gallup, but let's look at another poll.

The Rasmussen daily poll of likely voters (which has a great track record in predicting elections, by the way) has Obama at 47-52 approve-disapprove.

That's not bad on the surface, but his strongly approve/strongly disapprove is 24-41.

Obama is not yet a wildly unpopular president, but he's not a particularly popular one either.

When a president's party starts losing in "safe" states like New Jersey and Massachusetts, and gets killed in a swing state that he took with some aplomb a year earlier (Virginia), that's not a good sign.

February 15, 2010 at 10:06 AM 
Blogger Jeremy Schiffres, City Editor said...

Thanks, as always, for commenting.
First, Rasmussen is a joke (not to mention a regular presence on oh-so-slanted FoxNews). He routinely has Obama at 5-10 points less popular than other, more respected pollsters. He is, as I believe I've said before, like the East German judges at Olympics past. You have to disregard his numbers because they always are so out of whack.
And while you're correct that Gallup's numbers don't necessarily reflect who people will vote for, they are, routinely, the best gauge of American sentiment.
Also, spare me the 67 percent number from a year ago. Obama had been president for less than a month at that point. EVERY president has inflated numbers right out of the gate.
For a more accurate sense of Obama's trend, go to, click on Presidential Approval, and look at the accompanying graph. It shows, clearly, that Obama's approval rating has held steady since August, save for a couple of ups and downs. In this political climate, that's nothing short of amazing.

February 15, 2010 at 12:10 PM 
Blogger Martin McPhillips said...

Your comments on the Rasmussen poll are factually wrong. It was one of, or the, most accurate poll in the 2008 election--predicting a 52 to 46 win for Obama (the actual result was 53-46). I believe that Gallup predicted a double-digit win for Obama.

And the current spread between likely voters (Rasmussen) vs. all adults (Gallup) is not anything uncommon. Also remember that Gallup will switch from all adult samples to likely voters as elections near. Some pollsters also use "registered voters," which is more accurate than all adults but less accurate than likely voters, generally.

You can see the spread between these numbers reflected in both Rasmussen and Gallup throughout Obama's year in office.

I only mentioned Obama's 67 percent approval in Gallup a year ago (it was actually 69 the week he was inaugurated) because you were comparing his current approval in that poll to his winning percentage against McCain. To make that sort of comparison it's better to look at likely voters, but even there Rasmussen showed Obama with strong approval during his first month (62) -- i.e., the election is over and sentiment is with the new president.

Obama's numbers have been reasonably stable since the decline from his first month or so and you pick August as your comparative to show that stability. It's a good thing you didn't pick June because he was still up around 63% approval in Gallup then.

The overall approval in Rasmussen has been pretty stable since August as well (49 then, 47 today). It was over the summer that the bloom came off of Obama's high popularity and the honeymoon ended. (He was at 57 approval in Rasmussen for May.)

I think that the telling number is the strongly approve/strongly disapprove in Rasmussen, today at 24-41.

In addition to the real election results (in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) that I think best show the trend in voter sentiment, you can see today that Evan Bayh is not going to run for reelection in Indiana where he has a lead in the polls. You also just saw Patrick Kennedy drop out of the race for the sole House seat in Rhode Island.

These events, especially the actual elections, show an electorate that is not particularly interested in supporting the Obama presidency.

For a conservative like me, that is a very hopeful sign, but from my point of view I don't see a fat lady on her way to the stage, though she's clearly turning the doorknob to leave her dressing room.

February 15, 2010 at 2:10 PM 

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