Free Markets, Free People

Presidential poll numbers: What do they mean?

I’m sure everyone remembers the left’s constant trumpeting of negative presidential popularity polls during the Bush administration.  Understandably, now that the shoe is on the other foot, they’re not quite so keen on those polls anymore.  However there is an interesting point to be drawn from them.  Take this week’s Rasmussen poll on job approval numbers:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18

Now the overall poll, including the “slightly approve” and “slightly disapprove” categories, show overall approval at 45% and disapproval at 54%. That’s obviously bad news for the President. However the most significant numbers are found in the strongly approve v disapprove categories, because those are people – voters – who’ve pretty much made up their minds about the guy. Essentially those Obama has left “strongly approving” of his job performance is his base. And his base isn’t enough to get him anywhere near an election win. Meanwhile, a motivated 43% (by motivated, I mean they’ll most likely vote because the do “strongly disapprove”) don’t like this guy’s job performance at all.

That’s not necessarily good news for Republicans as with the rise of the Tea Party, they don’t have an automatic in as in past years.

In a three-way generic ballot test, it’s Democrats 34%, Republicans 27%, and the Tea Party at 21%. However, most Tea Party supporters would vote for the Republican if the GOP candidate was the only one with a chance to win.

Message to GOP? You’d better figure out the “Tea Party” issues quickly, co-opt them (i.e. adopt them) and deliver on them or be prepared to see a TP candidate in 2 years again (the reason it is so hard for a 3rd party to establish itself in the US is the 2 major parties have a tendency to co-opt their ideas depending upon which side of the political spectrum the 3rd party falls.). That shouldn’t be a particularly difficult job. However, the TP will provide an option for disaffected voters whether they choose to exercise it or not (it’s easy to claim you’ll vote TP if the GOP candidate isn’t what you want, until you realize the Dem is even worse). Hopefully that threat will be enough to scare Republicans back to their principles and keep them there.

Anyway, back to Obama’s poll numbers – they indicate a real problem for his re-election. I’ve found that in polls like that, the strongly approve or disapprove numbers best reflect the real job approval feeling within the country. A +18 would be formidable. But a -18 says “vulnerable”.

Lots of time between now and Nov. 2012, but Obama isn’t doing himself any favors with the path he’s stubbornly taken. My guess is that disapproval number will actually get worse before the next presidential election. Will it ever reach “Bush country”. I think it is possible. And if it does, you may see a Ted Kennedy like insurgency that finds Obama with a Democratic challenger. That would be fun.



30 Responses to Presidential poll numbers: What do they mean?

  • Haven’t you heard the new meme that Rasmuson is the “Fox news” of polling outfits? Simply a conservative propoganda crew?

  • All of this polling makes my head spin.  There appear to be three or four organizations that run at least a weekly poll, if not daily.  Polls seem to be more interesting as campaigns move towards election dates, and there’s so much that can affect the numbers by 2012.  The scary thing for the administration is that the economy seems to be stalled, and if it doesn’t start to pull out by the end of 2011, that could torpedo his chances before the presidential campaigns begin in earnest.

  • There still seems too much of a willingness on the part of the Republicans to fill the role of manager of the Democrats’ social democracy.

    Ideas that merely manage, or mitigate the worst effects of, the destruction wrought by Democrats, are not really ideas.

    Granted, the hole that America has dug itself is a century deep, but there are not going to be too many more opportunities to make bold changes back to fundamental principles, like limited government and maximum individual liberty.

    America will either settle down into the grey abyss of European socialism and become the opposite of what it was meant to be and then just disintegrate into some post-sovereign soup, or it will end up in a civil war that could be the deadliest thing the country has ever seen.

    Malevolent anti-Americans like Barack Obama hold power in the Congress and the Executive. They work “tirelessly” (as Leftists always characterize their efforts) to violate every principle that the United States is based on. Republicans who offer no more than the lite version of that are of no use whatsoever. The lines must be drawn more brightly, the stakes made clearer, and the ideas must be bold, not more wimpy bureaucratic maneuvers folded down into the batter of process.

    • If the republicans get swept into office especially from healtcare reform, and they don’t reverse much of what Obama has done, they will be discounted by the voting public more deeply than the Democrats are being discounted now.  

      The situation would be ripe for a 3rd party at that point.

      • That party should call itself the Hanging Party.

      • jpm100If the republicans get swept into office especially from healtcare reform, and they don’t reverse much of what Obama has done, they will be discounted by the voting public more deeply than the Democrats are being discounted now.  

        I agree.  IIRC, quite a few conservatives stayed home rather than vote for McCain, and I think that the GOP own base holds it in almost as much contempt as it does the democrats.  The GOP has certainly done itself no favors in past several years: the “compassionate conservatism” (trans: big spending) of George Bush; the big spending, tone deaf behavior of the GOP majority prior to ’06; nominating Yosemite Sam; Michael Steele; RINO’s like Snowejob, Grahamnesty, et al; etc.  Yes, many of the GOP’s problems were whipped up and exagerated by MiniTru to help get the democrats back into power in the past two elections, but there’s no doubt that the GOP has often behaved like democrat-lite.  At least the dems can truthfull claim to be doing exactly what their braindead base wants (i.e. wasting money, humiliating our country, tearing us down).

        Sadly, I expect them to try to “fix” ObamaCare should it pass, not get rid of it.  In that case, I’m with Martin McPhillips: let’s start a Hanging Party.

  • Look at history.  In the Wall Street Journal polling, Reagan was down to 38% approval in 1983 until the economy started to recover.   Clinton was down to 40% approval after health care reform failed in 1994.   The methodology used by the WSJ is not the same as Rasmussen, but more like the methodology which currently gives Obama 49-50% approval.   George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, had no such early term problems.   He stayed at or above 70% approval most of the time (until near the end).
    So there is no evidence to suggest early low approval ratings means no re-election, just as high ratings do not guarantee re-election.   In each case voters focused on economic conditions.  If the economy is looking better in 2012, Obama coasts to a victory like Reagan did in 1984.   If Obama passes health care reform, he may avoid a dip as deep as Clinton’s.   Moreover, in most generic ballots, the Democrats still top the Republicans, and Obama has higher approval than disapproval ratings.   In general, when there numerous polls, you take outlier polls with a grain of salt.

    • Um, actually Erb, Republicans are topping Democrats on most generic ballots (see link below):

      Out of the 8 polls listed, it’s 5-3 for Republicans. You really need to get out of the faculty lounge more.

      Or is RealClearPolitics another right wing site like Rasmussen?

  • Listen to this incredible music:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident:
    That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

    • But don’t forget the magnificent coda at the end of that symphony:

      We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

  • “If Obama passes health care reform, he may avoid a dip as deep as Clinton’s. ”
    That you believe this demonstrates, as if it needed to be demonstrated further – how out of touch you, (and he believes the same thing) and he are with the country at large.  It would be comical if it weren’t so screwed up.

    • You are out of touch, Looker, if you really think the country is angry about health care and if it passes will somehow punish the Democrats.   First, in off year elections the key is to mobilize the base.   If the Democrats pass health care, and then Obama pushes other initiatives as it gets closer to the election, he can have his base mobilized.   Second, if Obama is pushing things through, and the Republicans remain divided, their base could easily be demoralized.   Third, this is a March issue.   By October if the GOP is still trying to use health care as an issue once it’s passed, the public will grow tired of it, and the Democrats can say “we’re looking forward trying to chart a way out of this mess for America, and the Republicans only want to debate the past.”
      The Republicans know that if Obama wins this, he’ll be the leader who brought health care reform back from the dead, and Pelosi will move towards being considered one of the great leaders, it will be an epic victory.   If Obama wins this, he’ll likely have the kind of transformative Presidency that he ran on, health care is a key issue.   If he loses this, he’ll end up moderating like Clinton did.   That’s why it’s a big fight for both sides, and I certainly understand how strongly your side wants it to fail.
      I think what you do — and all of us do it — is you believe your particular view is far more widespread than it is.   The tea parties are like the early anti-war protests — small and divisive to the party.   They also represent a fringe point of view.   So just watch — health care passes, the left gets rejuvenated going into the election, the 15% or so who put Obama as unfavorable because they think he’s too moderate will move back to his camp, and Democrat loses will be less in 2010 than expected — far less.   Obama cruises to re-election if the economy is stable by 2012, with a more transformative legislation coming.
      Or, if health care fails, Obama’s shifts to the center, the Republicans win bigger in fall 2010, and Obama has to do a Clinton, and recast his Presidency to get re-elected.   It hinges on this issue, and if Obama and Pelosi lose, it’s a major defeat for them and their party.   In that case, I promise I’ll congratulate the GOP on an historic victory.

      • Yes, of course, Scott, Americans are so stupid that if the federal government effectively takes control of one-sixth of the U.S. economy without the support of the people while fundamentally changing their relationship with government, they will all forget by November and yawn at any suggestion that something isn’t right.

        And that little thingy where the Republican promising to be the 41st vote against health care got elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, taking the seat of the greatest advocate of socialized medicine, pay no attention that silliness. Everyone will be snoring come August, just like they were last August.

        It’s all right there in the mathematics of social science.

        • Well you’ve been wrong about so many things (you believed Congress would quickly pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, you thought the Iraq war would make Tony Blair Europe’s leader, you were convinced Rev. Wright would sink Obama’s campaign, and before that you said Hillary’s machine could not be stopped, ad nauseum), it’s hard to take you seriously.
          Here’s what will happen:  If it passes the Democrats and the media will focus on the “historic” reform.   Image trumps substance, and the image will invoke the idea of an historic moment, such as when Obama was elected.  Obama will also be seen as a leader who fought a tough fight and won, the Republicans will look rather sour complaining about “process.”    The Democrats will then push issues that win over independents, and push immigration reform (idea: if the GOP blocks it, Hispanic voters stay Democratic, if they don’t, the GOP base loses energy).   By then discussion of health care will be about the implementation, and whether it will save money.   Democrats will make a plausible argument it will.
          Speaking of how the world “is” (not how it ought to be) image trumps substance in politics, and in this case the images of winning the health care reform contest will quickly benefit the Democrats.   If the Republicans complain about process, it’ll get the public snoozing.    And, of course, given that every major industrialized country has health care guaranteed except the US, claims that it’s “radical socialism” will be laughed at loudly.   But that all depends on Obama and Pelosi getting this done; if they don’t, the images will work against the Democrats and for the Republicans.
          The world is vastly different than what you imagine, Martin.  You seem stuck around 1955.

          • Scott, really, are you duty bound to go back to predictions about things like gay marriage? (Routed in state after state whenever the people get to vote, including in liberal avant-garde California. Something you never seem to quite get to.)

            Are the people in those 30 or so states living in 1955, my dear simpleton friend?

            Anyway, one prediction where I was most definitely wrong came last spring, when I said that Americans would go into their summer sleepy-time only to awaken to their new “universal” health care system in the fall. Yeah, I was definitely wrong about that. Americans got up and said “No,” and have been saying “No” ever since. That’s why no sane politician wants anything to do with this malignant legislation.

            It’s not “radical socialism,” it’s just plain old rotten bureaucratized socialism. In other words: utter crap. And that’s all that it could ever be.

            And by the way, Scott, congratulations, the title belongs to you now.

  • It appears that Obama has just incentivized Democrats to vote “No” on health care.

    No smart politician would pass on a deal like that, especially since it takes away the embarrassing task of asking him to stay away.

  • “I think what you do — and all of us do it — is you believe your particular view is far more widespread than it is.   The tea parties are like the early anti-war protests — small and divisive to the party.   They also represent a fringe point of view. …The world is vastly different than what you imagine, Martin.  You seem stuck around 1955.”
    Senator Brown is just an outlier…”neee, neeee, neee, neee”   (hands in ears).

    • Actually, I like Senator Brown.   I’ve voted for Senators Snowe and Collins.   New England Republicans tend to be pragmatic and effective.   Of course, when Brown broke the filibuster on the jobs bill all the tea party types started screaming at him for being a Rino and a traitor.   He’s a New England Republican elected in Massachusetts because he was not a right winger.

      • Erb: “Actually, I like Senator Brown.   I’ve voted for Senators Snowe and Collins.   New England Republicans tend to be pragmatic and effective.”

        Your commitment to Diversity is legendary, Scott.

        Scott Brown was elected by emphatically pledging to be the 41st vote against Obamacare, to the Senate seat held by the greatest advocate of Obamacare after Obama himself, in the most liberal state in the Union.

        But you’re right: Scott Brown will eventually put on a dress to your liking. But not before the Democrats disgrace themselves by using reconciliation to try to pass the Obama Monstrosity. It is Brown’s historical role, and if he does nothing else it will be fine, to take Ted Kennedy’s seat and force Democrats to commandeer one-sixth of the economy for federal bureaucracy in the sleaziest way possible, against the will of the majority of the American people.

        • The majority want health care reform.  Even with reconciliation, the Democrats will get a majority.   Frankly, I still like Brown’s idea of state systems more than the federal government controlling it.  But realistically, that doesn’t have a chance, so the current bill is probably the best way to go.  But don’t worry — American values are not being sacrificed, we’re not on the road to socialism, and all those things you fear aren’t going to happen.  It’s just progress.

          • “It’s just progress.”

            That’s just your opinion.  And around here your opinion doesn’t stand for much, if anything at all.

          • For starters: the Massachusetts health care “system” is already taking the state toward bankruptcy. The insurance rates are also skyrocketing.

            And it’s not “progress.” It’s an already proven catastrophic  misunderstanding of government, markets, medical care, and society itself that will take the United States into the final phase of post-industrial serfdom.

            No sane party or president would put a federal bureaucracy in charge of a sixth of the largest economy on earth.

          • And claiming disingenously that “the majority want health care reform” is to ignore the fact that the majority does not want this monstrosity and has repeatedly said “No” to it.

            What people want is a little flexibilityand sufficient opportunity to get better prices on health care: that will require competition not some bizarre bureaucratic management.

            And even if the majority want something, that doesn’t mean that the government has the power to go take it for them.

            If an overwhelming majority of Americans wanted Euro-Canadian health care then we would have had it twenth years ago. We don’t have it because Americans like their health care and they like it because it is produced by the remnant of market forces left in the industry and not wholly by the obliterative bureaucracies that have already crept into it.

  • There still seems too much of a willingness on the part of the Republicans to fill the role of manager of the Democrats’ social democracy.
    That’s a classic line…so true.

  • The majority want health care reform.

    That’s a tricky comment, though.  It’s also true that more than 80% of people with health insurance like the health insurance that they have.  Obama has had to backtrack on his promise that for those with insurance, nothing would change.  Thus, it seems to me that the majority want health care reform, but not what is being peddled by Congress and the White House.  And this works from both sides, as  there are many progressives who would rather see this bill die without a public option.

  • “American values are not being sacrificed, we’re not on the road to socialism, and all those things you fear aren’t going to happen.  It’s just progress.”
    “Please, oh please, just keep making and sending in those tax dollars and leave the running of the country to us progressives for just a few more months (then we will have irrevocably committed America to the European multicultural socialist elitocracy and there won’t be a damned thing you can do about it).  Hush now, it won’t hurt a bit and you’ll find you won’t miss America as much as you fear.  There will be a check from the government for you too, just trust us (and let us show you how much smarter we are than you).  It’s just progress, yes…progress…just progress.”
    Note for January, 2011:  “So, we lied.  Get over it.”

  • The majority want health care reform.

    And a hypoglycemic diabetic wants a candy bar, but if he happens to also be allergic to peanuts listen to him and stop trying to cram a Snickers bar down his throat.

  • I wonder how many of those who “Strongly  Approve”  have a fascistic bent like Erb or are merely parasitic entitlement hounds? I wonder how many of those who “Approve” in any form have a clue of what is going on and what the consequences will be.
    I strongly suspect that the approval comes from cluelessness fueled by the LapDog Media.