What Happened To Obama’s Post-SOTU Poll Surge?

Lauren Victoria Burke/WDCPIX.COM

In the days immediately following President Obama’s Jan. 27 State of the Union address, pollsters reported a surge in support for Obama’s policies and the way he’s handling his job as president. At the time, pollsters said we should check back in a week to get the real story on what Obama’s speech and his subsequent appearance at a GOP Q&A session has meant to the national perception of the president’s job performance.

The answer, according to the polls? Mixed. Obama’s approval numbers have slipped back to their pre-address levels in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, but remain slightly up in Gallup’s polling. Rasmussen stands by his numbers, but says that they don’t take into account the effect the speech has had in Washington, where Obama’s post-State of the Union tough guy persona is markedly different from the Democratic hand-wringing over Obama that came after the Senate special election in Massachusetts.On the day before the speech, Rasmussen’s tracking poll showed 46% of Americans approved of the job Obama’s been doing, while 53% disapproved. Today’s numbers are essentially the same, with Obama drawing a 47% approval and a 53% disapproval. In the intervening days, Obama’s approval/disapproval split in the Rasmussen poll peaked at 50/49, the first time it had been that high in months.

“The speech has a long-term effect on the dialogue in Washington, but not on public opinion,” Rasmussen told me yesterday. I asked him to speculate on what caused the dip in his polling. “Speeches rarely have a lasting impact,” he said. “Remember, most voters didn’t see it and those who did watch were mostly fans of the President before the speech. That’s the reality in a fragmented media market where people have a wide variety of options.”

Rasmussen said that “the budget news probably overtook the speech as a news story” in the days following the speech, suggesting that Americans’ focus on it, whatever it had been, was dissipated by the shift to talk about Obama’s budget (not to mention the confusion over the GOP alternative).

Over at Gallup, Obama’s numbers are still higher than they were before the State of the Union. On Jan. 27, the day of the speech, Obama’s approval/disapproval split at Gallup was 47/46. Today, it’s 50/41. Obama’s Gallup approval numbers have remained right around 50% in the days since the speech, and his disapprovals have declined pretty steadily to today’s 41%. Gallup did not respond to a request for comment on the numbers.

The key distinction between Gallup and Rasmussen last week was the ratings of strong approval and strong disapproval. Rasmussen tracks these figures daily, while Gallup does not. And in the Rasmussen poll, Obama’s strong approval number has declined even faster than his overall approval number since the State of the Union, while the strong disapproval has remained steady. The strong approval number peaked on Feb. 1 at 35%. That same day, the strong disapproval number was 39. Today’s strong approval/strong disapproval split is 27/40.

Though Gallup doesn’t offer a number to contrast the Rasmussen figures in its daily tracking poll, a new Gallup survey out today offers some insight into where Obama’s strengths and weaknesses are in the days following the State of the Union. Taken between Feb. 1-3, the poll asked 1,025 adults about their opinion on how Obama is handling 9 specific topic areas, ranging from foreign policy to education.

From Gallup’s analysis of the findings: “Americans are most positive about Obama’s handing of education and foreign affairs, and least positive about his handling of the federal budget deficit, the economy, healthcare policy, and the situation in Iran.”