Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Did the SOTU Address Bump Obama’s Approval Rating?

Summary: The State of the Union Address did help President Obama - but by how much, and will it last?

A week ago today President Obama delivered his first State of the Union Address. Earlier that day we asked “could it bump his approval rating?”

We looked at Gallup data from previous SOTU speeches and determined it was unlikely. Presidents rarely get a significant bump following their annual address. But after seeing the speech, we determined that if any address could help his approval rating, it was that one.

Well, the new Gallup data is in, and - though it was small - there was a notable increase.

In just a day or two, the gap between his approval and disapproval ratings increased from 2% to 6%. As of this morning it is currently at 9% (note: the approval rating data will be updated later today).

As Gallup notes though, most of that increase came because Obama was able to re-inspire confidence in the Democratic base - not among Independents and Republicans.

Support for Obama among Democrats on a week-by-week basis has held steady in the mid-80s during January, although with some minor shifts among segments of the Democratic Party. His approval rating dipped mid-month among liberal Democrats before rebounding a bit last week. His support increased slightly in mid-January among conservative Democrats and has held at the higher level.

Support for Obama is now a bit lower among moderate/liberal Republicans than it was at the start of the month (27% vs. 33%). It is also slightly lower among conservative Republicans and pure independents (those who don't lean to either party), but neither of those changes is statistically significant.

Of course, the impact of single political events - even as high-profile as a State of the Union Address - fade quickly. A small bump in his approval rating this week means virtually nothing when looking forward to the 2010 elections. President Obama needs to continue what he started during that speech.

And he appears to be doing so. His tone has become more populist, more inspiring, and more reasonable. His recent address and Q&A with House Republicans was a very good event for him. If he manages to keep this up he could easily recapture a lot of the ground he lost over 2009 in terms of popularity.

Obviously he is not up for election this year - members of Congress are. But as a Democratic president during a year Democrats are expected to see big losses, he certainly has his role to play. And for now, he appears to be playing it well.

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