Obama Approval Jumps in Newsweek Poll
Newsweek is touting their latest poll with the headline, “Obama Approval Rating Jumps, Democrats Close ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ — As the president’s numbers climb sharply, results suggest that Democrats may be succeeding in firing up their base.”
Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK Poll since February 2010. However, his approval rating, which is notably higher than many recent polls of the president’s popularity, may be evidence of a closing “enthusiasm gap” more than a sea change in voter attitudes, and may not substantially affect Democrats’ fortunes come Election Day. In 1994, NEWSWEEK Polls showed a similar steep climb in President Clinton’s approval between late September and late October, but Democrats still suffered a rout in the midterms.
While two thirds (69 percent) of self-identified Republican voters say they’ve given a lot or some thought to the election, 62 percent of Democrats say they have. This result indicates that the difference in enthusiasm between Democratic and Republican voters may be less stark than some other polls have suggested. A small plurality of registered voters—48 to 43 percent—would prefer that Democrats keep control of Congress. (The poll’s margin of error is 4.3 percent.) The new survey also offers a morsel of evidence that Democrats’ strategy of gaining an edge among early voters might be succeeding. They hold a 10-point lead among those who have already voted, 52 points to 42, but because the sample only represents 92 voters out of the 1,005 polled, Hugick says more polling is necessary for a conclusive picture. Early voting—which has steadily gained popularity in recent years—is expected to have an impact on the election, with three in 10 voters expected to cast ballots before Nov. 2.
The trends and analysis here wouldn’t shock me. Obama has strong baseline support — his numbers are astoundingly good considering the horrid state of the economy. And even many lifelong Republicans are exasperated about the rise of the Tea Party and the likes of Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, so it’s only natural that Democrats would become “enthusiastic” about defeating these candidates.
But the problem is that the Newsweek numbers are extreme outliers. Here’s a snapshot of the latest polls as aggregated by RealClearPolitics:
So, the Newsweek spread is 16.4 points off an average that includes the Newsweek poll! It’s 18.7 off if you remove the Newsweek poll. Even more starkly, look at the trendlines:
All this means we either have to believe that half a dozen well respected national pollsters have no idea how to poll this cycle or that Newsweek is seriously screwing something up. Given that I have particular confidence in the NBC/WSJ poll (my wife’s firm is a partner in this enterprise; see Disclosures) and Pew’s numbers, I’m going with the latter.
Additionally, it’s worth reminding ourselves that something like a third of all people who are going to vote this cycle have already done so. Increasing numbers of jurisdictions are allowing and encouraging early voting, whether by absentee ballot or on site. “Election Day” is quickly becoming a quaint notion.