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

For A Female Banker At The Top Of Her Game, What Does It Take To Stay There?

In the film Equity, investment banker Naomi Bishop navigates the male-dominated world of Wall Street. Screenwriter Amy Fox discusses the film and her research, which included many interviews with women who worked on Wall Street.
NPR

Salvage Supperclub: A High-End Dinner In A Dumpster To Fight Food Waste

The ingredients — think wilted basil, bruised plums, garbanzo bean water — sound less than appetizing. Whipped together, they're a tasty meal that show how home cooks can use often-tossed foods.
NPR

LISTEN: At The DNC, We Asked Women Why They Were Voting For Clinton

We asked women — as young as 4 and as old as 77 — how much the weight of history factored into their decision.
NPR

New Reports Of Hackers In Democratic Party Computer Systems

The Clinton campaign says its systems were not hit but that a program it uses was in the party's compromised system. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was also hacked.

Leave a Comment

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