According to the new Gallup daily presidential approval tracking poll, President Barack Obama has begun 2011 with a bang, as his job approval rating jumped a net 7%. His approval rating jumped 3 points to 50% while his disapproval rating fell 4 points from last week to 42%, as Obama’s Clintonesque revival continues.
The daily tracking number can vary, but this marks a big improvement from the last quarter of the year, when Obama job approval rating averaged 44.7%. For the previous 12 months, Obama’s approval rating has averaged 47%. His all-time low job approval rating occurred in late October 2010, when the President bottomed out at 41% approval. For his entire term to date, Obama’s approval rating is still averaging 52%.
An examination of the numbers from the previous week reveals that Obama remains strong with core elements of his constituency. Despite the bad economy, Obama has maintained a 61% approval rating with people age 18-29, and the President has a 51% approval rating with women. Among non-white Americans he has a 71% approval rating, and with African Americans Obama has 91% approval rating. Obama also has a 65% approval rating with Hispanics. Despite all the reports of his political demise, this president still remains wildly popular with the coalition of Democrats that powered his election in 2008.
Support for Obama has grown among all types of Democrats. His support with liberals in general has jumped 7 points to 76%. According to the latest weekly poll, support for Obama with liberal Democrats rose 11 points to 91%. He saw a 3 point increase with moderate Democrats to 81%, and a 6 point increase with conservative Democrats to 75%. It is probable that the increased liberal support for Obama is a consequence of the repeal of DADT, and the conservative Democratic increase is attributable to the tax cut deal.
Historically speaking, a 50% job approval rating is the magic number for presidents seeking reelection. Only one president has ever won reelection with a less than 50% approval rating. (It is a pretty easy trivia question, but I’ll leave it to you. Who was the only president to win reelection with less than a 50% approval rating? Feel free to post your guesses in the comments).
Of the three recent incumbent presidents who ran for reelection and lost, Gerald Ford had the highest approval rating at 48%. Jimmy Carter was at 39% and George H.W. Bush was at 41%. (Note: Ford was a special case. He wasn’t elected to the presidency, and his pardon of Nixon was his downfall).
As Obama has moved to the middle, but still managed to get things done for the left, his approval rating has risen. It is very possible that Obama was helped by his party’s midterm election defeat. He now has opposition to contrast himself with. The ineffective Democratic congressional majority had become more of an anchor sinking his agenda than a lifeboat for progress. Obama finds himself in a win-win situation politically, because his message of compromise is popular with moderates and Independents, and every time he does battle with the Republicans, he gains support from the left.
The most important factor related to Obama’s popularity will continue to be the economy. Over the last two months, data and consumer behavior is starting to hint at an improving economy. It is a simple equation. As the economy improves, Obama’s popularity grows. Despite Republican control of the House, this President could have a very good 2011. Obama looks to be on the rise, and Republicans might find themselves in the no win situation of losing if they compromise, and losing if they fight.