Over the weekend, President Obama’s approval rating in Gallup’s tracking poll reached 53%, which is the strongest support he’s seen in three years. As it turns out, this is no outlier – Obama’s approval rating has reached three-year highs in the latest Bloomberg Politics and CNN polls, too.
There are plenty of explanations for the upswing making the rounds, but the circumstances got me thinking about whether there’s a rising tide. Perhaps Americans are just feeling a little better, in general, about low unemployment, low gas prices, the growing number of Americans who finally have access to affordable medical care, and the lack of perilous drama in D.C. lately (no shutdowns or debt-ceiling hostage crises).
If the public’s mood is improving, maybe it’s not just Obama’s approval rating on the rise? Perhaps Congress is looking less awful as well? Unfortunately for the Republican majority, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
The CNN poll is helpful on this front. It shows Obama’s approval rating inching higher to 51%, but it also shows Congress’ approval rating dropping six points to just 15%. To drive home the point, I put together the above chart.
It’s a safe bet these aren’t the kind of results Republicans are looking for right now. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, in control of both the House and Senate, continue to make the case that Obama is a dreadful leader and a failed president who should follow Congress’ lead on issues that matter. Evidently, that message isn’t resonating with the public.
As for the larger context, circling back to our previous coverage, I’m not unsympathetic to the argument that Obama’s approval rating is irrelevant, since he obviously can’t seek another term. This might have some effect on historians’ perspective when the president’s legacy is being debated, but it’s understandable that much of the political world would be far more interested in the latest poll results out of Ohio and Florida.
But don’t be too quick to dismiss the significance of Obama’s support. He won’t literally be on the ballot, but there’s little doubt the president’s standing will have a real impact on the public’s appetite – or lack thereof – for radical change in 2017 and beyond.
The L.A. Times recently noted, “Obama’s approval rating now is almost identical to that of President Ronald Reagan in his final year in office – the last time the incumbent’s party won a third election in a row.”