The headline on The Hill’s homepage yesterday read, “Obama’s approval dips ahead of midterms.” As Eric Boehlert noted, there’s a lot of this kind of reporting going around.
The news media reminders arrive almost daily now: President Obama’s approval rating is low and going lower. McClatchy Newspapers highlighted the “dropping approval ratings,” while the Washington Post declared “President Obama’s approval ratings have plunged to record lows.” The Christian Science Monitor noted the numbers have “plummeted.” The Washington Examiner stressed the president’s approvals were “sinking to historic lows,” while an Atlantic headlined announced, “Obama’s Sinking Approval Could Drag Democrats Down With Him.”The portrait being painted by an array of media artists is unmistakable: Obama’s approval ratings are not only weak but they’re going down, down, down.But it’s not true.
It’s obviously beyond dispute that President Obama’s support is nowhere near its heights from 2009, but the perception of Obama in freefall just isn’t correct. The most recent Pew Research Center poll showed the president’s approval rating inching higher. So did the latest Fox News poll. The latest Washington Post/ABC poll showed the president’s approval rating up three points. The most recent CNN poll released earlier this week found Obama’s approval rating reaching its highest point of the year.
The new Gallup tracking poll results haven’t been published just yet, but yesterday, the president had a 43% approval rating. At the start of the year, it was 42%.
By no fair definition would anyone characterize Obama as popular, but the data clearly doesn’t support the “plunged to record lows” talk.
So why do we hear it quite so often? I suspect is has something to do with attempts to make sense of the 2014 midterms – Republicans are running a hyper-aggressive anti-Obama campaign, predicated on the assumption that voters who’ve turned against the president will also turn against candidates from the president’s party.
Indeed, there’s already been amble Beltway chatter about how much responsibility Obama should shoulder for the Democrats’ midterm difficulties. The answer is, not much.
In fact, Brian Beutler explained that several key Dems are already outperforming the president in their respective states.
If I had to, I’d put money on Democrats losing [Senate races in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky]. But you have to be really invested in a certain conception of politics to explain races that close in states that red as evidence of a national anti-Obama wave. Or to attribute their losses to insufficient Obama bashing.If roles, parties, and states were reversed, and Democrats were barely hanging on to Senate seats in (for instance) California, Washington, and Connecticut, the obvious story wouldn’t be that Republicans were compounding their disadvantages. It would be that Republicans were outperforming fundamentals in Democratic strongholds. If those Republicans went on to lose anyhow, it wouldn’t support the view that their strategies were flawed, or executed poorly. It would rather suggest that even a good, well executed campaign strategy usually can’t overwhelm the basic nature of the electorate.
Obviously, if the president were riding high in the polls, we’d see a very different midterm dynamic. But despite the chatter, the picture of a president with plummeting support, making it impossible for Democrats to compete, isn’t an accurate one.