Obama Approval Rating is Strong, Despite Fiscal Cliff Muck-Ups


If President Obama’s approval ratings are any indication, America sure does love a winner. According to the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, 55% of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance. Staggeringly Obama’s approval rating has been above 50% every day since the November 2.

Obama’ approval rating was at 50% on election day and it has climbed 5 points to its current level. But nothing has changed so why is Obama polling better now than he did during the election season? Could it be related to the unemployment rate? Unemployment has stayed below 8% for three consecutive months. In September when unemployment dropped below 8% for the first time in 43 months, Obama’s opponents accused the government of cooking the books. Now that it has stayed under 8% these conspiracy theorists have gone silent.

Obama’s approval rating and the unemployment rate were the key performance indicators used to attack Obama’s re-election plans. There was a constant stream of articles and pundit analysis documenting the statistical anomaly of re-electing a president with an approval rating below 50% and an unemployment rate above 8%. It seems that there should be equal time given to the president’s current numbers, 55% approval rating and 7.7% unemployment rate.

The Gallup Poll also supports the notion that America loves a winner. On election day, Obama’s approval rating was 52%. It is now 57%. Obama’s approval rating is at a 52 week high for 2012 and is 16 points higher than the 52 week low of 42% he hit in January 2012.

Talking Points Memo noted that Obama’s post-election approval rating “calls to mind the bullish days of his first year in office before a stagnant economy and protracted disputes with Congressional Republicans took a toll on his approval rating.” That is not a good sign for his 2013 approval rating. Obama is still engaged in that same fight as evidenced by his inability to get a budget deal done with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two leaders have until January 1 to get a deal done and avoid the fiscal crises that will be brought on by automatic tax increases and spending cuts. Obama cut his holiday vacation short to return to Washington and work on a deal.

Obama appears to be right back where he started in 2009. Unemployment is at the same place it was when he took office in his first term, the economy has stabilized and things have gotten better, but we are not in full recovery yet and the fiscal cliff threatens to throw us back into a recession. His approval numbers indicate that some people are still hoping that he can make a change in the way politics are done in Washington. There is the possibility that he can break the gridlock and lead a bipartisan government.

If Obama fails to get a deal done the Bush tax cuts will expire, raising taxes on all Americans. Additionally extended unemployment benefits will also expire putting millions of Americans in jeopardy. If Obama fails to get a deal done and unemployment begins to tick up then the ride he is enjoying from his post-election bump in approval ratings will be short lived.

Next week the December unemployment numbers will be released. It will probably stay below 8% given the current trend, however the January 2013 report to be released in February will be telling because it will show whether the 4th quarter 2012 numbers were skewed by seasonal employment.  

TPM said “all it took was a victorious election for Obama to earn higher marks for his job performance.” All it will take is a repeat of 2012 –like government gridlock to reverse that trend.