Polls: No damage to Obama's job approval from VA scandal

No real damage from the Bergdahl swap either, although it may be a bit too soon to judge that. It happened less than 10 days ago. Opinion might not have settled yet.

Here’s what Gallup looks like since March.


He was at 40/56 on March 1st. A month later, after he’d taken his victory lap for hitting seven million “sign-ups” on ObamaCare, he was back to 44/50, which is basically where he is today. Could be there was a small but significant chunk of centrist Democrats and left-leaning independents whose remaining faith in him was badly shaken by the O-Care rollout, but who stabilized once the website started working better and enrollments began flowing in. And before you say “that’s just one pollster!”, here’s what the RCP average looks like over the same period:


There may be a small VA/Bergdahl effect happening within the last 10 days. As you can see, O’s been bouncing around between 43-44 percent approval (52-53 percent disapproval) for the better part of three months. That little dip at the far right of the graph began on June 2nd, three days after Shinseki resigned and two days after the Bergdahl swap was completed, with the backlash to the prisoner exchange suddenly in full flower in the media. Something did cause his numbers to change — but only by a point or so either way.

Could be the stability in Obama’s numbers is a function of public despair about the intractability of VA problems. It doesn’t matter that he promised to fix the department, or that the entire premise of his presidency is that the federal government can be made to function effectively. “VA” is a byword for sclerotic bureaucracy, in which case the public may simply have decided that O can’t be blamed for not reforming something that’s unreformable. Or, to refine that, maybe he can’t be blamed as much as others: Remember, when CBS polled this, a plurality of 33 percent said Shinseki deserved most of the blame versus just 17 percent who blamed O. Shinseki’s gone now, so the perception is that the problem is “solved” — even though it’s not solved at all. That’s good enough to keep Obama’s numbers from falling off a cliff.

My pal Karl has another theory for O’s resilience, though:


Democrats have checked out, but they’re not going to abandon O five months out from a midterm election. If the abandonment comes, it’ll come next year, once Hillary has declared and they have a new de facto leader of the party. And even if Obama doesn’t fall any farther in the near term, odds are good that he’s not going to become more popular either: Politico has a piece out today tracking the numbers for every president since FDR and noting that, typically, the best you can hope for deep in your second term is stasis. When it’s that late in the game, if your numbers are moving, chances are they’re only moving downward. Which is to say, whether or not the current job approval represents O’s floor, it’s probably very close to being his ceiling.