Presidential job approval numbers – what do they mean?

I’m sure everyone remembers the left’s constant trumpeting of negative presidential popularity polls during the Bush administration. Understandably, now that the shoe is on the other foot, they’re not quite so keen on those polls anymore. However there is an interesting point to be drawn from them. Take this week’s Rasmussen poll on job approval numbers:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18

Now the overall poll, including the “slightly approve” and “slightly disapprove” categories, show overall approval at 45% and disapproval at 54%. That’s obviously bad news for the President. However the most significant numbers are found in the strongly approve v disapprove categories, because those are people – voters – who’ve pretty much made up their minds about the guy. Essentially those Obama has left “strongly approving” of his job performance is his base. And his base isn’t enough to get him anywhere near an election win. Meanwhile, a motivated 43% (by motivated, I mean they’ll most likely vote because the do “strongly disapprove”) don’t like this guy’s job performance at all.

That’s not necessarily good news for Republicans as with the rise of the Tea Party, they don’t have an automatic in as in past years.

In a three-way generic ballot test, it’s Democrats 34%, Republicans 27%, and the Tea Party at 21%. However, most Tea Party supporters would vote for the Republican if the GOP candidate was the only one with a chance to win.

Message to GOP? You’d better figure out the “Tea Party” issues quickly, co-opt them (i.e. adopt them) and deliver on them or be prepared to see a TP candidate in 2 years again (the reason it is so hard for a 3rd party to establish itself in the US is the 2 major parties have a tendency to co-opt their ideas depending upon which side of the political spectrum the 3rd party falls.). That shouldn’t be a particularly difficult job. However, the TP will provide an option for disaffected voters whether they choose to exercise it or not (it’s easy to claim you’ll vote TP if the GOP candidate isn’t what you want, until you realize the Dem is even worse). Hopefully that threat will be enough to scare Republicans back to their principles and keep them there.

Anyway, back to Obama’s poll numbers – they indicate a real problem for his re-election. I’ve found that in polls like that, the strongly approve or disapprove numbers best reflect the real job approval feeling within the country. A +18 would be formidable. But a -18 says “vulnerable”.

Lots of time between now and Nov. 2012, but Obama isn’t doing himself any favors with the path he’s stubbornly taken. My guess is that disapproval number will actually get worse before the next presidential election. Will it ever reach “Bush country”. I think it is possible. And if it does, you may see a Ted Kennedy like insurgency that finds Obama with a Democratic challenger. That would be fun.

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