As President Obama starts his third year in office, pollsters — especially media pollsters — have an interest in taking the temperature of the nation on his job performance. We’ve seen bumps in polling from WaPo/ABC and NBC/WSJ polling, and now CBS shows an uptick, too … but to a lesser extent than their competitors:
President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent at the midpoint in his first term, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. Thirty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.
Mr. Obama’s approval rating is below where it was in the first half of last year, when a majority of Americans said they approved of his job performance. But it is improved compared to October, when his approval rating was 45 percent and his disapproval rating 47 percent.
By point of comparison, Mr. Obama’s 49 percent approval rating is ten points lower than that of President George W. Bush at the midpoint in his first term, according to past CBS News polls. It is higher than presidents Clinton (45 percent), Reagan (41 percent) and Carter (42 percent), but lower than presidents George H.W. Bush (84 percent), Nixon (56 percent), Kennedy (74 percent) and Eisenhower (70 percent).
Yes, it’s an improvement over October, but not over November, which the CBS report doesn’t mention. His November numbers were 48/42, certainly within the margin of error to January’s 49/39. Once again, these numbers belie Obama’s standing on the issues. He is significantly underwater on the top three issues of the moment: economy (41/52), job creation (37/54), and the budget deficit (30/56). Obama scores only a plurality on foreign policy (46/32), an area in which most Americans are not closely engaged.
The sampling is an issue in this poll as it was in the other two media polls this week. The actual unweighted sample here was skewed slightly to Democrats, with a D/R/I of 33/29/38 for a D+4 sample. After CBS weighted the poll to match its survey profile, the split became 34/27/38 for a D+7 sample — the same gap that voted for Obama in 2008. In a sample that actually reflected the electorate, Obama wouldn’t make it to 49%, and he would perform even worse on the issues than he does in this poll. This also explains why the same survey has found support for continuing ObamaCare.
Meanwhile, Gallup has spent this week calculating Obama’s 2010 polling results, and they’re not pretty:
Barack Obama averaged 46.7% job approval in his second full year in office, spanning Jan. 20, 2010-Jan. 19, 2011. That places Obama’s approval on the low end compared with other presidents elected to office since World War II — similar to the averages of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, but better than Ronald Reagan’s historical low second-year average. …
From his first to his second year in office, Obama’s average approval rating fell 10.5 percentage points, one of the largest first- to second-year drops Gallup has measured. Only Carter and Reagan had larger drops among elected presidents.
Andrew Malcolm says this is kind of a buzzkill:
Anyway, despite Congress, the current Democrat in the Oval Office still has 655 days to right the SS Job Approval. Bill Clinton (45.9%) and Ronald Reagan (43.3%) pulled it off for second terms, though both of them had been experienced governors, not untested legislators.
According to Gallup, Obama is on the high end of approval declines from first to second years (a slide of 10.5 points), behind only Carter (down 16.6 points) and Reagan (down 13.8 points).
Not surprisingly, Gallup finds the third-year average approval is key to reelection in the fourth year. Of the three presidents most similar to Obama’s second-year showing, two improved the third year — Reagan and Clinton. They were reelected. The third declined. That was Carter. Enough said.
With Obama scoring as poorly as he has on the issues in all three media polls this week despite what can generously be called friendly samples, the uptick in personal likability isn’t going to last long. The only way Obama improves his standing in Year 3 is to have a massive increase in job creation, and that won’t be coming when Obama’s administration is pushing regulatory adventurism to bypass the hostile Congress.
Note: One interesting data point from Gallup is the number of polls taken that comprise his annual average. For George W. Bush, it was 46. For Obama … 347.
Update: The initial sample was D+4, not D+3. I had the difference in my mind when writing that.