Tuesday, November 29, 2011


President Obama's approval rating seems to have settled at 43% in -- it's been there, unchanged, all month, according to Gallup -- but it's gone down over the course of this year, and Gallup explains who's particularly disappointed now (and who isn't):

Obama's approval rating has decreased among all six partisan/ideology groups Gallup tracks on a regular basis since January, but it has dropped the most -- 10 percentage points, from 40% to 30% -- among pure independents. These are the roughly 14% of national adults who neither identify with one of the two major parties nor indicate a leaning. Obama's approval rating has declined by nearly as much -- eight points -- among moderate/liberal Republicans, from 29% to 21%.

Obama's approval rating has changed the least in 2011 among the two groups on the far left and right of the U.S. political spectrum. Most liberal Democrats and very few conservative Republicans approved of him in January and this remains the case today. Additionally, conservative Democrats' views also showed little change -- likely because their approval was already at a dampened 70% at the start of the year.

So the premise of Jonathan Chait's recent feature article in New York magazine -- that liberals are angry at Obama because they get angry at all Democratic presidents -- seems to be truer only for the subset of liberals who are professional pundits or bloggers. Ordinary liberals are still Obama fans.

But more interesting to me is the fact that the president has courted the center so hard for three years -- and yet it's centrists who've gotten off the bus. Pundits from the center and right will say it's because he's "playing the class warfare card" lately; I'd argue that it's because pure centrists (and the dying breed of moderate and liberal Republicans) actually want results, and they know they aren't getting those results. Congress gets blamed, yes, but so does the president. The GOP economic-stonewall strategy works with regard to Obama's status among swing voters.

Meanwhile, if Obama really is becoming more of a rhetorical lefty, liberals don't seem to notice. And if he was less of a lefty at the beginning of the year, the right didn't notice that.

But my takeaway is that Obama still has people crushing on him, but not the object of his own deepest crush.


Swellsman said...

I'd disagree with this analysis, but only because I don't believe it is appropriate to equate "independents" with "centrists."

I think in today's polarized political landscape, the only people who truly are "independents" are the people who haven't been paying attention. Note that this means "Independents" are a subset of all low-information voters.

For example, the husband of a friend of mine has some truly odious reflexive beliefs about "welfare" and "blacks." His political view hardened like cement in the early 80s, and he hasn't paid attention to politics since. He is a low-information voter, but a committed Republican.

And he asked me, sneeringly, the other day who I planned to vote for since I obviously wouldn't be voting for Obama.

"Why wouldn't I vote for Obama?" I asked him.

"Well, because of the crappy job he's done for the country," I was told.

"How is the crappy state of the country Obama's fault?" I asked him. "Everything Obama has been trying to do to get the economy moving again, the Republicans have stopped him on. Tell me one thing Obama has done that makes him responsible for this mess."

Of course, he couldn't think of anything specific, because he doesn't really pay attention to the world. Hell! He isn't even misinformed by Fox News. He is just like every low-information voter, he knows the economy is in the toilet and so he figures that must be Obama's fault.

And it is precisely these low-information voters tnat Obama is losing when polls come out that he is losing "Independents" -- not Centrists. The Centrists are all in the Democratic Party.

The Independents are just the ignorant.

c u n d gulag said...

Well Steve, you know my opinion about "independents."

And I think they were beautifully described by "Swellsman," above.

Basically, they are incurious, lazy, and moronic twits who are also racists, misogynists, xenophobes, and homophobes, and who haven't figured out that boogers are neither a dietary staple, nor socially acceptable, and wonder why people stare at them as they snack off their fingertips.

I'd drop the booger-eaters and concentrate on the paste-eaters.
Maybe they're still reachable.

Ten Bears said...

I'm with swellsman as well, if only because as a Non Affiliated voter (we can do that in Oregon - not "belong" to a political party) far to often I am "identified" with the Oregon Independent Party.

If I wanted to belong to a political party, I'd join one.

c u n d gulag said...

Ten Bears,
You're one of those exceptions, so I hope you didn't think I painted you with my overly broad brush. :-)

Tom Hilton said...

But more interesting to me is the fact that the president has courted the center so hard for three years -- and yet it's centrists who've gotten off the bus.

Actually, Chait anticipates this point in his article. See his discussion about Friedman et al.

: smintheus :: said...

Obama painted himself into this corner years before he even began running for president. It's one of the main reasons some of us were far from thrilled with his candidacy. He has always portrayed himself as (i) a centrist in touch with the pulse of America, and (ii) someone who can build consensus with the other party. He actually believes this stuff, to the extent that he believes he can sell others on his own self-image, and anyway it would have been an embarrassment not to try at least to govern this way.

So candidate Obama was a frustrated-bipartisan disaster waiting to happen. Other 'centrists', like himself, are utilitarians. They don't care about theory or consistency or coherence any more than about maintaining the partisan political machinery that underpins successful government; instead they focus heavily on results, which they think are the measure of everything that matters.

Other, more ideological Democrats could run successfully against Republican stonewalling. I think Obama will have a hard time doing it.

Joey Blau said...

"only for the subset of liberals who are professional pundits or bloggers. Ordinary liberals are still Obama fans."

I had hopes that Obama would actually act like a democrat. sadly, no.

I am an ordinary liberal, better informed than most and more progressive, but no professional.

I am no fan of Obama. failed on so many fronts, barely eked out a tie when a win was in his grasp; and his clearest victories, such as killing Osama, are tinged with authoritarian hubris that they are scary.