Friday, September 25, 2009

The Top 3 Signs That We’ve Returned to Political Equilibrium

Summary: the political landscape has changed a lot over the past year - what we can learn from it.

In the weeks and months leading up to and after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, it seemed like public opinion had dramatically shifted. Presidential job approval was the highest it had been in years, GOP favorability ratings were at - literally - an all time low, and for a while there, almost as many Americans were saying the country was on the “right track” as those who were saying it was on the “wrong track.”

As many noted, it was a “honeymoon period” for the new president.

Now with October around the corner, the tide seems to have turned. Presidential job approval is down about 20 points, the GOP has greatly improved their image, and Americans are beginning to say the country is on the wrong track again.

Call it the American Political Equilibrium.

Presidential Job Approval

Following his inauguration, President Obama had a near 70% job approval rating. Today, Gallup tracks it around 50%.

But don’t assume that it will keep dropping too fast. As Gallup noted in a recent study, Obama’s approval has stayed remarkably stable over the past month.

And’s presidential approval poll average appears to confirm this new trend.

In fact, this trend seems to be pretty normal for a president’s first year in office for the month of September these days. In the graph below, the only two presidents outside of the trend are the Bush presidents. It’s important to remember, however, that George H.W. Bush was the only president who did not have a recession on his hands at the time, and George W. Bush was assisted here by polls that found his approval rating to be as high as 90% following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Now anything could happen between now and 2012, but usually the presidential approval rating for an incumbent improves going into an election year.

The Improving GOP Image

Gallup also recently found that public opinion towards the Republican Party has increased considerably since the beginning of the year when it was at an all time low.

Again, don’t assume this trend will continue. Favorability of Republicans will not reach that of Democrats for some time still.

The first reason is pretty simple: this is about the normal equilibrium favorability for the GOP in recent years. In fact, Republican favorability is only back to where it was around the time of last year’s general elections.

The other reason is because of why they’ve surged in popularity recently: it’s because Republicans themselves aren’t as dismayed by their own party as they were in the beginning of the year. Democrats and - more importantly - independents haven’t really jumped on board with them yet.

Democrats actually still lead Republicans among party base as well as independents.

Direction of the Country

For a few months, it actually seemed as though Americans were beginning to think the country was on the right path - so much so that it seemed as though we were returning to some blissful equilibrium.


The truth is, public opinion on the direction of the country is always pessimistic, or at least has been for the past several years.

But now, the polls seem to suggest that Americans are beginning to become less and less hopeful for their nation’s prospects again. Sure it’s sad, but it’s also normalcy.

No comments: