A graphic showing just how little has changed over the past year

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:30


Since August 15th, President Obama's job approval rating has mirrored the results of the 2008 election almost precisely.  By superimposing the results of the 2008 election over Pollster.com's graph of Obama job approval rating since August 15th, you can see just how little has changed politically over the past year:


The graph adjusts for the undecideds in Pollster.com's job approval rating by multiplying the 2008 results, Obama 52.87%--45.60% McCain, by 0.9633.  (This figure is derived by taking the 5.2% undecided in the Pollster.com graph, subtracting the 1.53% that voted for a third-party candidate in 2008, and then subtracting the resulting 3.67% from 100%.)

For the past 95 days, President Obama's approval rating has hovered in a very tight range, between about 50.5% and 52.0%.  Similarly, his disapproval has also hovered in a narrow range, from about 42.5% to 45.0%.  Both narrow ranges are neatly bisected by the results of the 2008 election, when those results are adjusted for undecideds.

For President Obama, essentially nothing has changed politically since November 4th, 2008.  He has as many supporters as he did back then, and as many opponents.  From November 5th through August 14th, his approval rating was unnaturally inflated by soft supporters who had actually backed McCain in 2008.  Now, however, his coalition has shed all of those soft supporters, and has entered a period of balance nearly identical to that just before the 2008 elections.

The same can not be said for Congressional Democrats.  One year ago, House Democrats won the national popular House vote by 8.88%, but are currently leading Republicans by just 3.19% in the national House ballot.  Similarly, the Democratic edge is partisan self-identification stood at 10% (39%-29%) on Election Day, 2008 (according to exit polls), but now stands at 6% (40%-34%).

So, it would appear that President Obama has been able to maintain a bit more buoyancy than the rest of his party.  This could perhaps be viewed as a political benefit to taking a relatively hands-off, "congressionalist" approach to major legislation such as the stimulus, climate change and health care.  Then again, one could counter that passing that major legislation earlier, and making that legislation stronger, would have been more of a political benefit and could have been accomplished with a more hands-on approach.

Chris Bowers :: A graphic showing just how little has changed over the past year

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I'm not understanding (4.00 / 1)
how your generic Congressional numbers keep changing.  Every time I look, I see the same polls posted.

Obama outsourced all the dirty work to congress... (4.00 / 2)
...keeping his hands clean and making the Democratic congress look bad.  In addition, Obama obsession with "bipartisanship" has made the congressional Democrats seem irrelevant and prevented them from benefiting from Obama's general popularity.

People keep talking about how independents are abandoning the Demcorats, but they haven't abandoned Obama.  I'd argue that its Obama who has abandoned the Democrats, leaving them on their own to fight unpopular issues, while Obama gets to stay clean.  Had Obama gotten more involved, his legislation probably would have been in better shape and Democrats wouldn't have taken such a hit.  Of course, that would have meant that Obama take a stand, and his popularity might have taken a hit as well...  we couldn't have that!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


what issues are unpopular? (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Heh... not really... (4.00 / 1)
Clinton was not well liked or popular before 1995...  He regularly had approval levels in the 30's his first two years in office...  the congressional losses in 1994 were a reflection of Clinton's lack of popularity more than anything else.  That's not the case here.  When Clinton became more popular, he actually did help downticket, at least in 1998, when he gained 5 seats in a year which he should have lost more.  Newt Gingrich resigned as a result of that disappointing year....

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
CLinton left the rest of the party (4.00 / 1)
destroyed at the end while protecting himself. He separated his interests from long term party building. Compare and contrast with Reagan.  

[ Parent ]
republicrats (4.00 / 1)
Why do progressives talk about Democrats and Republicans...or the Bush and the Obama administration... as though there were fundamental differences in their approach to either economic or foreign policy?

They are both wedded strategically, systemically to Wall Street; and they both embrace a foreign policy predicated on the Monroe Doctrine writ large across the globe.

Their battles are mostly tactical. Only on that broad spectrum of social policies are they often vastly at odds. And even here Obama and Pelosi creep ever more insidiously to the right.



Yeah, sure... (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure we would've had an even more progressive health care bill had McCain been president and Boehner as Speaker... and someone more progressive than Justice Sotomayor with perhaps McConnell as Majority Leader.

[ Parent ]
Why doesn't graph translate? (0.00 / 0)
On my computer, the graph does not show the clear pattern that you describe, but clicking on "Tools" shows the the pattern clearly.  Can you adjust something to make the primary graph match the graph that shows up on "Tools"?

$$$$$ (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure we would've had an even more progressive health care bill had McCain been president and Boehner as Speaker...

Point taken. And certainly true. But my own point is less about how much worse things would be under the Republicans and more about how much less better off we are than Democratic candidates keep claiming we will be if we elect them.

Really, how substantively would the Republicans have handled the economic crisis differently than Geithner Inc.? And the squabbles over foreign policy revolve not around being in Afghanistan but the growing concern that once again we are stumbling into yet another quagmire over there.

Just to to a web site illustrates the $$$$ relationship between K Street and Congress. One thing will become crystal clear following the numbers: Wall Street no longer differentiates between the two parties. Not on basic economic issues.


John McCain is a deficit nut (0.00 / 0)
remember when he said "families live within their means, so should the government" McCain would be well on his way to balancing the budget and cutting every last bit of spending he could . Government jobs would be lost at a dizzying pace.

Phil Gramm could be Secretary of the Treasury right now...I'd rather have Geithner.  


[ Parent ]
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