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Ear to the Ground

Obama Job Approval Keeps Sinking

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Posted on Sep 18, 2013
White House/Pete Souza

Maybe it’s the NSA spying, the fact that the economic recovery has mostly benefited the richest Americans or the threat to bomb Syria. Regardless, a growing majority of the country disapproves of the president’s job performance.

According to Real Clear Politics’ meta survey of polls, an average of 50.6 percent disapproves, with the numbers generally headed south since the end of May.

The Guardian (via Political Wire) explains why Democrats, particularly those in Congress, should be deeply concerned about the president’s polling:

In midterms, electorates often take out their frustration with the president on the their party’s congressional members. A poor presidential approval rating will only add to that frustration. A president likely needs an approval rating in the mid 60s, like Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W Bush in 2002, to avoid the curse of “midterm loss”.

In every non-wartime midterm election since 1938, simply knowing how many seats the president’s party controlled and the president’s approval rating goes a long way in determining how the midterm is going to shake out. Not counting 1974, because Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford took his place, more than 75% of the variation between the seats won in the House by the president’s party in the midterm is explained by the two aforementioned variables.

If the president’s approval rating were to hold, this very simple regression finds the Democrats would lose 30 seats in the House. Now, no one I’ve spoken to thinks that the president’s party is going to lose that many seats. The margin of error on this regression is large enough that no seat loss is possible with the president’s net approval rating of -7.5pt. Still, the chances of a major House loss for the president’s party are perhaps better than one might think, if the president’s position holds.

If your eyes just glossed over that blockquote, here’s the simplified version: Anger at the president usually means losses in the House and Senate for his party, and there’s an election next November. Obama is short on time to turn things around, and so far he has had precious little success working with this Congress. We’ll have to wait and see what impact budget negotiations and the threat of a government shutdown have on the midterms. 2014 is not going to be an ordinary election year.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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