Obama rebounding?

“Obama’s job-approval ratings show signs of improvement, Post-ABC poll finds.”  That’s the oh-so-hopeful headline from the Washington Post about its WaPo/ABC poll, but how reliable is it, and just what improved?

After a difficult summer and a contentious fall, President’s Obama’s job-approval ratings are showing signs of improvement — a crucial indicator of his reelection chances as he positions himself to seek a second term.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Americans are still broadly disapproving of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs, the top issues, but that views of his overall performance have recovered among key groups, including independents, young adults and seniors.

As in the earlier post on the Republican primary results, one has to keep the sample skew in mind.  The D/R/I of 32/25/37 in the current sample may have a D+7 and a ridiculous I+12 skew against Republicans, but in the poll series dealing with Obama, it’s not as bad as the skew in some previous surveys.  However, it is worse than the last full poll in this series, which had a D/R/I of 29/26/38.

So what happens when you add four points to the gap between Democrats and Republicans in a poll?  You go from a job approval rating of 44/53 at the beginning of November to 49/47 today.  Obviously, not all of this improvement can be attributed to the change in the sample skew, but some of it surely can.

How about with some of the other findings?

In the new poll, 50 percent say they trust Obama on this issue, compared with 35 percent who choose the GOP — a major change from last month, when the two sides were more evenly matched on the question.

On taxes, Obama has improved since early October, while public trust of the GOP has slipped. Some 46 percent now side with Obama on the issue, and 41 percent with the Republicans in Congress. Independents now side with the president on that front by a 17-point margin, 49 to 32 percent.

Very obviously, the change in the sample profile doesn’t account for those larger swings, although it does contribute to them.  However, Obama’s approval ratings on the economy and job creation have barely budged and is mostly attributable to the sample shift:

  • Economy — 41/56, was 38/61 in November
  • Job creation — 39/55, was 40/57
  • Obama vs GOP in Congress on economy — 44/40, was 42/42
  • Obama vs GOP in Congress on job creation — 44/41, was 40/40

In short, Obama has rebounded slightly in job approval, but has had no real change on the economy and job creation.  His pursuit of the payroll tax cut extension has clearly helped him gain some middle-class credibility in the last six weeks, something Republicans should keep in mind, but we’re not looking at a major rebound as long as Obama remains as underwater on the economy as this poll shows.

Update: As my friend and Salem colleague Guy Benson reminded me on Twitter, this follows an AP poll showing Obama still declining in popularity.