He’s Back? Obama’s Approval Rating Surges In Recent Polls

January 14, 2011 7:20 a.m.

Just two months removed from a midterm shellacking that saw the GOP win a whopping 63 seats in the House, President Obama’s approval rating has suddenly spiked in recent polls, a change so significant that for the first time in eight months the President has a net positive approval rating in the TPM Poll Average.

In the current TPM Poll Average, Obama posts an approval rating of 47.9% compared to a disapproval rating of 47.3%. It marks the first time Obama has notched a net positive in the TPM average since May 18, when that split was 47.7% to 47.6%.

Virtually every pollster has tracked at least a nominal improvement in the President’s approval rating over the last month or so, including a 13-point net approval swing in the latest Marist poll. And while it would be mere speculation to cite the surge as evidence that Obama has completely regained his mojo and that his approval will keep climbing, the turnaround is striking considering his standing as 2010 drew to a close.

Immediately following the Democrats’ midterm disaster, there was much talk about whether Obama was toast, doomed to dwindling approval numbers en route to a one-term presidency. The punditry was also abuzz with speculation that Obama was so weakened by the defeat that a liberal candidate could emerge and challenge him to a spirited primary contest in 2012.

That speculation, it’s now clear, was premature.

In a Quinnipiac poll released this week, 48% of respondents said they approved of Obama’s job performance, while 44% disapproved, the first time in approximately one year that the president posted a net positive rating in that poll. It also came two months after Obama’s worst ever showing in the Quinnipiac poll, when 44% of respondents approved of the job he was doing, compared to 49% who disapproved.

Similarly, the latest Marist poll found that 48% of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, while 43% disapprove. That’s a stunning 13-point swing in net approval from December, when Obama posted a record low 42% approval rating and a 50% disapproval rating.

The trend is clear in other polls as well:

  • Ipsos-Reuters found that Obama’s approval rating hit the symblic 50% threshold this month for the first time since last June.
  • An AP-Gfk poll this month pegged Obama’s approval even higher, at 53%, also the first time they’d found the president with a positive net approval since June.
  • Though Obama still posts a net negative approval rating in polling done by YouGov (46% approval to 48% disapproval in the most recent poll) that’s still far better than his marks in mid November when his approval sank to 40% compared to 55% disapproval.

And both Rasmussen and Gallup, who release daily tracking polls of the president’s approval rating, have shown it trending up recently. Obama’s approval reached 50% earlier this month in the Gallup poll, the first time it had done so since last May. And while Obama posts a net negative in the latest Rasmussen poll, with 47% of respondents approving of his job performance versus 51% disapproving, that split is better than the 45% to 54% split Obama held exactly one month ago.

There are a number of factors that could be contributing to Obama’s recent approval bump.

For one, he signed several popular bills during the lame duck session, including the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a bill providing health care for 9/11 first responders, and a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans.

One month of improved approval numbers is not necessarily indicative of a reversal of fortune for the President, especially as he prepares to govern for the first time with a Republican controlled House. Yet they do show that recent reports of the President’s political demise were greatly exaggerated.

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