President Obama’s approval rating has seen an uptick in recent weeks and is now near two month highs, which is coincident with Research Edge’s hiring of Darius Dale, our newest Junior Analyst. I was sold on Darius fairly quickly after his first interview. Not only is he a Yale Athlete, all Ivy Football player, but he also called me Mr. Jones! Darius, who is more commonly known as Sunny D by his former Yale Football teammates, is a resilient man (after all he works for Brian McGough, who is probably the hardest working Director of Research on Wall Street!). It seems the President may finally be experiencing some “Sunny D” type resilience in his approval.
We’ve outlined this in the chart below, but as of the most recent reading in the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll, President Obama is rated -4. This poll is calculated by subtracting Strongly Approves from Strongly Disapproves. While clearly no President should be content with a negative rating, and -4 is dramatically off the highs of the Obama Presidency, it is indicative of dramatic improvement from his lows, which troughed at -14 in the throes of the healthcare debate in mid-August.
So other than Sunny D joining Research Edge, what is helping the President? For starters, President Obama’s speech to Congress and broadcast nationally seems to have been at least moderately well received. President Obama has been oft criticized for articulating his healthcare plan ineffectively, and it seems this appearance at least helped him make some headway in the regard. According to statistics from Newsweek, President Obama has made public remarks (speeches, town halls, interviews, etc) 263 times since being elected. Based on the same analysis, 123 of those appearances have had some healthcare content. It seems that the 123rd appearance (his speech to Congress last Thursday) may have been the lucky one, at least for the short term.
Rasmussen summed up the volatility in President Obama’s approval and its relationship to healthcare last week, when he wrote:
“When the public debate over health care reform began in earnest in June, 50% of voters nationwide supported the legislative effort and 45% were opposed. By August, support had fallen to 43% and opposition had risen to 53%.”
As of this Monday, approval for the healthcare plan was back above 50%, at 51%. Clearly, President Obama’s approval rating is very directly related the fortunes and/or perception of his healthcare plan. His approval rating started to deteriorate as he introduced the plan and has ebbed and flowed based on the tenor of the national healthcare debate over the last two months.
Synching the information from Rasmussen with a Gallup poll provides an even more important leading indicator. According to a recent survey by Gallup:
“Americans remain split on the issue of healthcare reform, and almost two-thirds (64%) say their representative’s position on healthcare reform will be a major factor in their vote in the next congressional elections.”
Thus, it is clear that the nature of the healthcare reform debate, and how representatives vote on it, will be critical as we start looking towards midterm elections in 2010. It seems, at least based on the Gallup poll above, that representatives will be held directly accountable for their votes on this legislation. This will also be a critical test for President Obama; while he is certainly seeing a bounce in approval, and this is positive, he has expended an incredible amount of political capital on the healthcare battle, which will shape the remainder of the first year of his Presidency. The first test will be whether the bill passes, in what form, and then how representatives are judged by their constituents.
Daryl G. Jones