According to a new Gallup poll released today, President Obama has been helped by the midterm election that his party suffered. Obama has actually seen his approval rating rise by 4 points to 47%. Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton saw their approval ratings fall after their parties lost control of Congress. Obama could be bucking the trend of falling approval ratings for Presidents who lose Congress.
The Gallup poll revealed that President Obama actually became more popular after the Democratic Party lost seats in last week’s midterm election. Obama’s approval rating increased from 43%-47% after the election. According to the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll, Obama’s approval rating specifically increased after last Tuesday’s election.
If Obama’s numbers continue to increase, it would unprecedented in the modern era for a president to gain popularity after his party was defeated in the midterms. Interestingly, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush saw their approval ratings fall after their party lost control of Congress. In 1994, Bill Clinton’s approval rating fell from 46%-43% over the course of three weeks after the “Republican Revolution.”
A more appropriate comparison for Obama is George W. Bush who saw his approval rating fall from 38%-33% in less than week in 2006 after Democrats took control of Congress. There are a couple of other possibilities for why President Obama has seen his approval rating increase. A better than expected jobs report could be helping Obama’s popularity. Not surprisingly, as more people return to work, the President will become more popular. Obama’s job approval rating has been tied to the economy from the get go, so it is entirely plausible that an improving economy is helping him.
The other possibility is that contrary to the media and Republican narrative, for most of America, this election was not about Obama. What must be kept in mind is that the 2010 electorate was much smaller, whiter, older, and more Republican than in 2008. This means that 2010 was more a representation of the Republican Party than the nation as a whole. When either political party wins a midterm election, the spin is always that America has spoken, but midterm electorates usually aren’t representative of the entire population, so attempting to project the voice of the nation based on an unrepresentative electorate is a fatally flawed exercise.
For America at large, the midterm election was not a referendum on Obama. It was an expression of anger over the economy. Justified or not, as economic conditions improve Obama’s job approval numbers will continue to rise. Everyone knows that the number one Republican goal is to turn Obama into a one termer, but the odds of him being defeated will continue to grow longer if his approval ratings continue to increase despite a stronger Republican presence in Congress.