August 13, 2009

Another Day, Another New Approval Low

It's becoming glaringly obvious why Barack Obama was pushing so hard to have Congress pass ObamaCare before they left for their August recess. By the time they reconvene in September, they're going to be dealing with an unpopular president.

With seemingly every day that passes, Obama is not only losing ground on the debate over his socialized medicine but on his overall job approval rating as well. And since today is a new day, he has predictably set a new personal low in his approval ratings at Rasmussen Reports. (As a reminder, Rasmussen was the most accurate polling operation in 2008.) Whether its his penchant for stepping in it whenever he isn't being told what to say or touring with his travelling AstroTurf band, the more he talks the lower his numbers go.

Do you want proof that it's his mouth that's the problem? Look at the polling trend. Look at where his polling numbers were on 7/31: a net -11 on the passion index, with a 48/51 approve/disapprove split on overall approval. Now look at where they were one week later on 8/7: a net -4 on the passion index, with a 50/49 approve/disapprove split. What happened during that week? Obama shut up for a change. The health care debate didn't stop. TEA Partiers were still protesting, and the talking heads were still talking. The only one who wasn't doing a lot of talking was Obama, and his numbers started to drift upwards a little.

Now he's back on the road, and his approval numbers are starting their predictable nosedive. Only this time, they're starting their nosedive in already negative territory rather than from the stratospheric heights he experienced after his inauguration. And even his current approval ratings - such as they are - are soft as it is.

Rasmussen's polling on Obama includes a section called "By the Numbers" which breaks down his approval over specific policy areas to identify areas of strengths and weakness for the president. They provide an important insight into how solid his overall approval ratings are and where we can expect the numbers are going to be in the future.

I look at 5 "tabs" in the polling: Economy, National Security, Leadership, Energy and Ethics. The other tabs are interesting, but these pretty much cover the range of issues in one way or another. If you take the average approval ratings for these 5 areas, you come up with 45.2. While a president's personal approval ratings may vacillate around their policy approval numbers, the two cannot remain far apart over the long run. No matter how much someone personally likes you, if you're doing an awful job they're eventually going to give you a thumbs down on your job approval. The gap between the personal approval and their policy approval is something I call "the charisma gap." It's the degree to which a politician can artificially inflate their job approval ratings simply because people like them.

When Obama took office, his charisma gap was huge. People liked him even though they weren't necessarily supportive of his policy prescriptions. Fast forward to August, and his charisma gap is down to 2%. That bears repeating: 2%. For all the goodwill he had in the beginning, he has squandered almost every single bit of it in his headlong rush to institute his Leftist agenda.

A month ago, his charisma gap was much higher: not because his policies were more or less popular, because they weren't. His policy numbers have been hovering around 45% for some time. But in the interim, more and more people have decided that the more they see of him, the less they like him.

If Axelrod and Emanuel know what's good for their agenda and for their guy, they'll drop the curtain on his townhall tour ASAP and send the Obamas on vacation for a few weeks. How ironic is it that the best chance for Obama's socialist plan to succeed is for him to shut up about it and go away for a while?

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