First, it is important to understand the origins of the media-driven hype. Gallup’s daily tracking poll measured President Obama’s approval at 47% and disapproval at 45%. It was the first time since July his approval rating was higher than his disapproval rating. Although he was only at +2 approval/disapproval, it certainly appeared to be a significant accomplishment considering how long he’d been upside down in the polls. However, that accomplishment turned out to be very short-lived.
Just a few days after Christmas, Gallup found President Obama’s approval rating dipped to 46% and his disapproval rating jumped to 48%, placing him upside down once again. His slide did not stop there, though. As I write, President Obama stands at 41% approval and 50% disapproval. To be clear, the entire basis for the “Obama is surging” stories was a blip; nothing more than a statistical anomaly that sent politicians and pundits into overdrive.
If a statistical anomaly constitutes a compelling “trend” worth reporting, it begs the question why not report the subsequent data. In just one week, his approval/disapproval went from +2 to -9. While an 11-point slide is newsworthy (especially in this climate), it does not tell us a whole lot. It would be a stretch to proclaim this is evidence that President Obama’s support is crumbling and his reelection chances are nonexistent. Instead, it simply confirms the new normal for President Obama: an approval rating stuck in the low to mid 40s.
When it comes to polling, President Obama is stagnant. He ended December just as he ended November, with a 41% approval rating. That is slightly below his 3-month average and 6 points below his 3-month high. His disapproval stands at 50%, his average during the past three months. No surge, period.
Interestingly, we saw a similar phenomenon last December, too. “A President Reborn: Heading Into 2011 Support for Obama Surges” was a typical December 2010 headline. There was a slight difference though. In 2010, President Obama’s support actually increased ever so slightly during the month of December. He ended 2010 with a 50% approval rating, a 5-point increase from that November.