Do the Polls Indicate Obama Should Move to the Left?

The Rasmussen polls have a demonstrated history of accuracy at least in terms of election outcomes. This pollster has managed to accurately identify likely voters in a way that mimics election results. They certainly nailed the percentage differences in the 2008 President elections. All polls have their idiosynrcaies, especially in terms of the absolute values. However, most polls do an excellent job in tracking changes in pulblic sentiment.

All national polls have some presidential approval metric. tracks an average of many polls. President Barack Obama’s composite approval rating at the start of his Administration was in the plus-60% range. In recent months, the approval has fallen below the 50% mark.

Over the last few years, Rasmussen polls have focuses on an additional metric, the difference between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove of the President’s performance. The goal is measure voter intensity. At the beginning of the Obama’s term, the strongly approve numbers were over 40% while the strongly disapproval number were well below 20%.

The plot below shows the temporal changes in this metric. In the summer of 2009, when new government medical plan was under ernest consideration, the President’s numbers were rapdily changing. Around August, the percentage of people who strongly approved of Obama’s performance fell consistently below the percentage of those who who strongly disapprove.

What is interesting is that the number of people who strongly disapprove seems relatively stable at about 40%. However, the number of who strongly approve seems to be strongly dependent on specific events. For example, in January 2010, after the State of the Union address, Obama’s supporters were heartened and some of those who register approval moved into the strongly approves category. However, that poll pop was short lived.

Immediately after the passage of the health care bill, the frustration of Obama’s supporters about the bill wes eased, and Obama experienced a longer-lived increase in the numbers who strongly approve. However, the strong approvers have dwindled since then. Whether because the glow of the passage of the health care bill has dimmed or because of the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fewer and fewer people strongly approve of the President’s performance.

Midterm election are often an referendum on presidential leadership and a president’s party. Moreover, midterms elections are more strongly dependent on enthusiasm that fuels turn out. Since the overall presidential approval ratings and Obama’s strong disapproval ratings have stabilized, it would seem wise for Obama to veer to the Left to shore up the energy of his strong supporters.

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