If you like red meat, then this column might not have enough blood in it for your taste. But if you want less opinion and more analysis that's based on a pollster's experience, then read on. It might provide you with a little beef to offer when you talk politics this holiday season.
In my daily job as a nonpartisan pollster, I can't allow my personal opinions to impact the numbers. Readers might recall that when President Obama was first sworn in and enjoyed stratospheric approval ratings, I wrote that those who didn't like the numbers would have to live with them.
In February, I wrote that while the president was still popular, the overconfident Democratic Congress was rapidly shoving Obama's agenda too far to the left. I also noted that the president was too ambitious. It all reminded me of Jimmy Carter's first year in office.
In August, I noted that the February predictions seemed to be coming true. By the summer dog days, Obama's approval ratings in various national polls had dropped from the 70 percent-plus of January to anywhere from 52 percent to 57 percent.
Now, as we enter December, we find the president at 49 percent approval. That's according to Gallup, which I generally consider the most consistent of the pollsters that regularly gauge national approval ratings.
Most all polls of Obama are discovering a drop or a stall in his approval ratings and a rise in his disapprovals.
What's to follow is likely bad news for the White House. The president is like a man who crosses the street from the left side, only to hesitate when he gets in the middle of traffic. He's in danger of getting hit simultaneously from both directions. Look for the likelihood of polling numbers to that effect by early 2010.
Obama may get a momentary "success bump" in his approval numbers if and when a health care bill passes Congress and makes its way to the White House for his signature. But this upward spike probably will be short-lived, because health care isn't the foremost issue on the minds of most Americans -- and also because whatever changes a new health care bill will bring about, they will likely take a long time to be noticed by the public. (And those changes may be unpopular when they do surface.)
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