The MSNBC set has worked itself into a frothy frenzy today over a new Washington Post/ABC News survey showing President Obama's job approval rating hitting 50 percent for the first time since May 2013. Though this polling series has traditionally been relatively Obama-friendly overall, the new numbers suggest that Obama's political fortunes are improving in the new year. His rebound appears to be fueled by Democrats and Latinos, with independents warming slightly toward a president of whom they've disapproved for years. The fresh data shows the national mood improving (right track/wrong track has ticked up to 39/56), with voters split between Obama's and the GOP's competing visions on several fronts -- with a solid number of respondents giving both sides low marks. Politicos are noting the president's boost among Hispanics, concluding that his executive amnesty is a political boon:
Obama approval hits 50, spikes among Latinos. For now, exec action on immigration looks like a clear-cut winner http://t.co/OLSyhSuO0j— Alex Roarty (@Alex_Roarty) January 19, 2015
It's true that the immigration decree is supported by a significant majority of non-white voters, but it's still quite unpopular overall:
As the battle lines of this fight come into sharper focus, Republicans appear to have the public on their side. They can also cite Obama's own words on this matter as a powerful argument. Then again, divisive fights like this will certainly hamper the GOP's efforts to make inroads within communities of color, which is exactly what Obama had in mind. The only eye-opening result from the poll was a finding -- the first I can remember -- showing opposition to building the Keystone Pipeline, which has been consistently supported by large majorities in poll after poll. I suspect this outcome is a product of slanted question wording, which framed the choice as "waiting for a review" versus "Republicans acting now." Unmentioned in the question: Six years' worth of favorable studies, serious job creation prospects, and strong bipartisan support on the Hill. In any case, we'll see how the trend develops, but at the moment, WaPo's top line numbers look like a bit of an outlier. CBS News' poll pegs Obama's approval rating at 46 percent, while Fox News' latest nationwide survey has it at 42 percent. That same poll shows Obama still deep underwater on most big issues (with improvement on his handling of the economy), plus a few additional findings of note:
(1) Heavy majorities say Obama has mostly failed at stimulating the economy, improving healthcare, improving America's image around the world, running a transparent administration, improving race relations and handling illegal immigration. A plurality says the same about making the country safer.
(2) Six in ten Americans want to see all or parts of Obamacare repealed, with just 35 percent favoring keeping it in place or expanding the law.
(3) A super-majority of respondents say Obama should sign legislation approving Keystone construction, with just 22 percent backing his veto threat.
(4) The president's executive amnesty is opposed by a 25-point margin (35/60).
(5) A majority of Americans support Obama's shift in US policy vis-a-vis Cuba, though most say it's a "fair criticism" to wonder if the Castro regime disproportionately benefits from the new arrangement.
The poll also showed that while nearly two-thirds of Americans say it still feels like the economy is in a recession, nearly six-in-ten are at least somewhat optimistic about the direction things are heading. The recent spate of good economic news is starting to sink in, it appears, despite some mixed indicators. The two parties are fighting for credit over this (very belated) surge, but economist Jim Pethokoukis says both sides' arguments are "dodgy." I'll leave you with this chart of the president's aggregate approval rating, which may dampen the media's breathless "Obama comeback" narrative heading into tomorrow's State of the Union (via the Huffington Post):
That's...rather bit less dramatic than the blaring headlines and triumphal segments about the latest WaPo results may lead some to believe.