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Is Obama having trouble connecting with Main Street?

approvals.jpg

The latest issue of The New Yorker features a typically engrossing, and even convincing, George Packer article limning Barack Obama's failure to connect to Main Street. The only question is whether it's true.

I compiled the chart above using Gallup's Presidential Approval Center. It tracks the approval ratings of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. As you can see, they all look ... pretty much the same. Bush, Obama and Reagan are all in lockstep until Bush gets his 9/11 bump. Clinton, who was pretty good at talking to Main Street, underperforms the others before mounting a bit of a comeback in his second year.

And don't forget the context of all of this: Obama is facing a far worse economy than any of the others (though Clinton and Reagan also faced early recessions). But despite much higher unemployment across the country, Obama doesn't seem to be doing worse than his predecessors. That doesn't mean he's not underperforming relative to some ideal mean, but it does suggest he's not having unique trouble connecting with the country.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 12, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Comments

Reagan did face an early recession, but he did have the modest advantage of being able to snipe at the Fed Governor (Paul Volcker) who was engineering it.

Posted by: bdballard | March 12, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter if it's true. What matters is that the media have decided it's true. And so it becomes true.

Posted by: JimDoom | March 12, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

People - especially those on the right - conveniently forget how poorly Reagan was polling in his second year. And he even got an early sympathetic bump from the assasination attempt in his first year. (it didn't last long but it was a definite bump) I think the perception here is different because of where Obama started. It seems like he's doing worse because he fell further. But I think that's was inflated because of how bad his predecessor was - Carter was even more liked than Bush II when he left office. I remain pretty amazed that given this economy and two continuing wars, the mess of the healthcare fight, and the complete war the GOP has declared, that Obama's approval ratings are still hovering around 50% and haven't really moved much in months. That he hasn't improved isn't shocking, it's that he hasn't fallen further. Passage of the healthcare bill and a continuing economic improvement - ableit a slow one - will start to increase his approval numbers. My guess is he'll be at around a solid 55-57% come November. Seriously, in this environment, I don't think he or the Dems could ask for any better going into the mid-terms.

Posted by: shamey73 | March 12, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

There has been a disconnect between public perceptions of the president's policies and perception of our needs. There is no popular consensus that the stimulus has helped them or that HCR will help them. I'm not sure how much of the problem is messaging, and how much is an unavoidable by-product of uncertainty and high unemployment.

Posted by: jduptonma | March 12, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Your chart would be more informative if the X and Y axes were labeled.

Posted by: Zzzz3 | March 12, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I think that it's difficult to compare Obama's polling to any other President. Have we ever had an appreciable number of people who thought the President wasn't a citizen? Who thought he was not a Christian? You can assign any number to that group you want, 25%, 15%, or even 5%, and it's astounding that Obama's numbers look as good as they do.

Posted by: loanguyjc | March 12, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

But why compare Obama to Bush? Bush barely squeaked into the White House and was not widely popular until after 9/11.

Posted by: robinshuster | March 13, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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