Put me down as someone who thinks that we Americans consume far too many polls. But the recent polling on President Obama’s post-bin Laden bounce include one thing that’s not like the others…
For starters, here are President Obama’s approval numbers according to various polls taken just before and/or just after the successful raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound:
|May 1-3||Gallup Daily Tracking||50.0%||42.0%||1,500||+/-3.0|
|April 28-May 1||CNN||52.0%||43.0%||700||+/-3.5|
|May 2||Wash Post/Pew||56.0%||38.0%||654||+/-4.5|
There’s the Rasmussen poll-like entity:
And then there’s this:
How much overall boost did President Obama get from the capture of Osama Bin Laden? None, according to an exclusive Newsweek / Daily Beast poll encompassing 1,200 American adults, conducted in the two days immediately before the president’s Sunday announcement about the terrorist leader, and then the two days immediately after.
Specifically, Americans like the way he handled the situation, giving him strong results in strength and decision-making (55 percent now term him a strong leader overall, and 63 percent do so in the area of terrorism). Yet he did not get any overall bump in terms of approval rating, or electoral support. His approval rate was unchanged—48 approve, 49 disapprove, both before and after. There was also no statistical change in whether Obama deserves reelection—40/48 before, 39/49 after.
And the numbers:
BEFORE: 48% APPROVE, 49% DISAPPROVE
AFTER: 48% APPROVE, 49% DISAPPROVE
COUNTRY HEADING IN THE RIGHT OR WRONG DIRECTION?
BEFORE: Right, 20%, Wrong, 65%
AFTER: Right, 30%, Wrong 55%
ECONOMY HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?
BEFORE: Right, 31%, Wrong, 56%
AFTER: Right, 27%, Wrong 60%
HAS OBAMA DONE HIS JOB WELL ENOUGH TO DESERVE RE-ELECTION?
BEFORE: Yes, 40%, No, 48%
AFTER: 39%, No, 49%
The Beast poll did find that Obama’s individual attribute numbers were significantly higher after the killing of bin Laden, but you’ve got to wonder if their mixing of before and after samples skewed the results. In any event, their poll appears to be a serious outlier.
Meanwhile, two response groups in particular lead me to wonder about the composition of the Beast’s sample:
Do you think President Obama deserves all of the credit, some of the credit, not much of the credit, or none of the credit for this operation?
All of the credit 10%
Some of the credit 59%
Not much of the
None of the credit 14%
Who do you think deserves more credit for Bin Laden’s capture – President Obama or President George W. Bush?
President Obama 48%
President George W.
The Beast poll was conducted by Newsweek pollster Doug Schoen (who has worked mostly for conservative Democrats and was partners with Mark Penn.) It included 600 people April 30-May 1st, and another 600 people May 2-3. The margin of error is given at 3.0.
USA Today/Gallup also had a separate poll on perceptions of which president gets credit, and on general views on the state of the “war on terror,” here. In that poll, a third of respondents said the killing of bin Laden had made them “a lot more confident” in Obama as commander in chief.
Nate Silver had predicted a bigger bounce, but offers this possible explanation for a slightly more modest uptick for President Obama:
It’s reasonable to ask why Mr. Obama’s improvement isn’t larger. The explanation — with the advantage of hindsight — seems obvious enough.
Perceptions about Mr. Obama are quite deeply entrenched. Recent Washington Post polls have found that a majority of Americans either strongly approve or strongly disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance. Voters have had an awful lot of news to weigh (especially on the economy) over the past two and a half years, against the background of an electorate that was highly partisan to begin with. Mr. Obama’s approval rating average has trended only within an extremely narrow range — between about 45 percent and 51 percent — over the past 18 months.
In other words, there is a lot of gravity for the president to overcome — for both positive and negative events. His base of Democratic support has been steadfast enough to keep his approval ratings in the 40s even at the worst of times. But skepticism among Republicans and some independent voters has been strong enough to prevent it from improving much beyond 50 percent even when things are going well for him.
Add to that the fact that Obama’s numbers are consistently under water with white voters, by around 10 points on average (as are most Democratic presidents) and ditto with male voters, and you begin to see what the president is up against heading into an election year.