Obama’s Popularity in Perspective
With new polls out showing that support for President Obama’s policies declining rapidly, Dave Weigel weighs in to remind us that Obama’s doing better than his predecessors at comparable periods. Matt Yglesias helpfully puts the data into a handy dandy chart.
Even aside from the fact that this is looking at Obama’s topline approval — which everyone acknowledges is good — rather than his weaker internals, this isn’t a very useful comparison.
First, Clinton and Bush both came to office with less than majority support. Clinton had won a very polarizing three-way race and then managed to have the worst start of any president in memory. For reasons inexplicable to this day, his first policy initiative was the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gays in the military compromise. He was also mired in a huge number of mini-scandals and on his way to a disaster in the 1994 mid-terms that would see his party lose both Houses of Congress. Bush came in second in the popular vote and won the Electoral College thanks to the still-disputed Florida fiasco.
Second, it’s the trendlines that the news reports are focusing on. Obama started with an enormous reservoir of good will and then built on it with a series of good staff choices and picking off some low-hanging fruit on the policy front. But he’s alienated a lot of people with hard decisions on the economy and social issues.
Yes, the HONEYMOON IS OVER hype is overblown. But it is a legitimate story.