Political Scientist Asks: Are Obama's Approval Ratings Better Than They Seem? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Political Scientist Asks: Are Obama's Approval Ratings Better Than They Seem?

President Obama's voter-approval ratings certainly have been far from spectacular for much of his presidency, remaining mostly below 50 percent since November of 2009.

But on that dimension he may actually be doing better than it appears, at least based on some statistical modeling of presidential approval ratings conducted by George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

After examining presidencies going back to Dwight Eisenhower, and figuring out both the expected and actual voter-approval ratings for those White House occupants, Sides concluded that Obama is actually outperforming the favorability rating history would predict.

Sides wrote about this recently in the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times web site.

"In fact, he is more popular than expected, and consistently so throughout these three years. His quarterly approval ratings are, on average, nine points higher than expected...

"... Only two other presidents have experienced a discrepancy between expected and actual approval in their first terms that was larger than the discrepancy in Mr. Obama's first three years. One was George W. Bush, and this arises largely because the model doesn't fully anticipate the quickness and size of the "rally effect" that took place after Sept. 11, 2001. The other was Ronald Reagan, whose first-term approval ratings exhibited more fluctuation than Mr. Obama's but were about 10 points above the model's expectations, on average."

Sides offers two reasons why Obama may be outperforming the expected approval rating his computer model predicts. Many voters find Obama's persona more appealing than media talking heads typically allow for.

The other reason is, even given the state of the economy, voters still don't blame the president, Sides says. The political scientist bases that conclusion on his reading of polling data. Sides has written about this on The Monkey Cage political-science blog for which he is a regular contributor.

It's an interesting hypothesis though, in the end, it's obviously less important for the president and his supporters that his actual approval rating exceeds some computer's prediction than it be strong enough to carry him to a second term.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Ruth Rendell Dies, Pioneered The Psychological Thriller

The British mystery writer was known for her Inspector Wexford series and in her later years became active in Labour Party politics. NPR's Petra Mayer has this remembrance.
NPR

'Bourbon Empire' Reveals The Smoke And Mirrors Of American Whiskey

A new book suggests that tall tales on craft bourbon labels are the rule rather than the exception. They're just one example of a slew of "carefully cultivated myths" created by the bourbon industry.
NPR

Site Using Candidate Carly Fiorina's Name Attacks Her Record At HP

The site, carlyfiorina.org, says the Republican presidential candidate laid off 30,000 people while she ran Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina does not deny the figure but says, overall, the firm created jobs.
NPR

As Emoji Spread Beyond Texts, Many Remain [Confounded Face] [Interrobang]

There's a growing tendency to bring the tiny hieroglyphs off of phones, but not everyone is fluent. New takes on emoji integration suggest misunderstanding may be remedied with universal translation.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.