Obama Approval Jumps in Newsweek Poll

Newsweek's latest poll shows a boom in support for President Obama and the Democrats. It's the only poll showing that, however.

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.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    Newsweek poll? More like a fiction poll. Newsweek was just sold for a $1.00 and you take a completely flawed poll as gospel? This is a strange, conflicted blog.

    Dude, you should seriously read posts before commenting on them. -ed.

  2. Smooth Jazz says:

    I have to hand it to OTB for calling out these ridiculous numbers from Newsweek that is contrary to every other poll out there. For a left of center blog that seems to relish attacking Gov Palin and the “extreme” tea party candidates, you get brownie points for seeing through this Newsweek scam poll and alerting your readers.

    Look, we all know what’s going on here: Newsweek is trying to push a “media narrative” in support of their favored candidate. What a joke. How many people are going to take this bait?? Let me see if I get this straight: Every other respectable independent poll has the Dems down 7 – 10 points in the generic ballot, and BO in the 40% approval range, then, out of nowhere, Newsweek, a DNC rag sheet who flacks for Obama, puts out a poll saying his approval jumps magically and Dems are now ahead. Heck, Gallup has BO’s JA number at 42%, and we are supposed to believe Newsweek at 12pts above that. Excuse me while I bend over in laughter. Hopefully I wont crack a rib while I gaggle on this one.

    A final point: I guess you guys are so obsessed with Gov Palin she has to be in most posts.You even throw in the “And even many lifelong Republicans are exasperated”, trying to emphasize that she is not popular with the elites. Keep underestimating this Gov; She got a lot done in 2 years as Gov, before being hounded out of office by wacko Lib anklebiters, even if you guys at these left wing blogs don’t care to admit it. She certainly did a lot more than BO’s 3 years as a part time senator before he became President.

  3. anjin-san says:

    > She got a lot done in 2 years as Gov, before being hounded out of office by wacko Lib anklebiters,

    If you accept this rather nonsensical explaination for Palin’s resignation, you are saying someone who turned tail and ran from a few fringe leftys should become the most powerful person in the world. Right wing logic (if you want to call it that).

  4. Tano says:


    So what are the numbers for Palin’s favorability that you believe in?
    And why are they always so much lower that Obama’s?

  5. ponce says:

    “Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favour information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.”


  6. Arcadian says:

    Thanks for confirming that Newsweek is full of crap and deserves its fate in the dumpster.

  7. This is an excellent poll…of people who aren’t going to vote. Nice try, Newsweek.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    Shoot the messenger? If you look at the RCP list of polls three of them aren’t a million miles from Newsweeks number. We can dismiss Ras and Fox and given the screen Gallup are using i’m not surprised they have him in the low forties. My personal view is he’s probably hovering at or around 50%. He still seems to be able to turn out huge crowds on a scale that no one else can remotely equal and his likeability is still high. If there was a presidential election tomorrow he’d win hands down against ANY Republican candidate you care to name. Sorry haters. Reality.

  9. Ameriapp says:

    And you think his turn out at a University football game has to do with his popularity? What a joke!

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    Ameriapp: really? He’s done about 8 big meetings over the last three weeks in WI, OH, MD, WA, CA, and as far as i can see he seems to get crowds from around 10,000 to 25,000. In LA there seemed to be a lot of folks. Is your contention these were all “football games” or are you demonstrating a perhaps less than totally objective grasp of reality?