It was just a two weeks ago that the political world gasped at the results of a New York Times/CBS News poll that found President Obama’s approval rating down sharply over the last month for no apparent reason. In many circles, Democrats had to resist the urge to panic, while Republicans started walking with a spring in their step.
And two weeks later, a new CNN poll has changed the partisans’ attitudes. It shows Obama’s approval rating up to 51%, economic confidence on the rise, and the president leading Mitt Romney in a hypothetical matchup by 11 points.
Perhaps this would be a good time to remind folks that it’s only March. At various stages, the various candidates will go up and down in the coming months, trading leads and seeing peaks and valleys in their levels of support. There’s just no reason to get too excited about one poll.
That said, there was something in the CNN results that jumped out at me: the parties’ favorability ratings.
After going through the data, I put together a chart showing Americans’ favorable opinions of the Democratic and Republican parties since January 2010.
Notice that Dems’ numbers have been pretty steady, and are currently on a subtle upswing. They’re not yet at 50%, but at 48%, Democrats are more popular in this poll than at any point in two years.
But also notice the trajectory of the Republicans’ support. The GOP’s favorability rating is down to just 35% – 13 points lower than their rivals – which isn’t just low, it’s also the third lowest it’s been since CNN polls started keeping track 20 years ago.
It would appear the support that helped drive GOP gains in the 2010 midterms has completely faded away. This matters, not only in the Republican drive to take back the White House, but also when it comes to the 2012 congressional races.