President Obama’s approval rating has been sliding steadily downward for several months now, prompting the White House to respond with a new talking point to use in response.
Here it is: the president’s approval rating is higher than the percentage of the vote that he got in the presidential election.
It is, to say the least, a talking point that is only true if you’re looking at certain approval rating polls.
The talking point popped up twice in the last day. Both times it was used by non-White House officials who are nonetheless very close to the administration.
Late Tuesday night, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine used it as he began the push from the administration against the idea that gubernatorial losses in Virginia and New Jersey were not a reflection of public dissatisfaction with the president.
“Exit polls showed that both races turned on local issues,” Mr. Kaine said. “And, in each state, the president’s approval ratings are better today than the share of the vote he received in each state in 2008.”
That’s only true in New Jersey, which gave Obama 56.8 percent of the vote a year ago, if you go back two weeks, which was the last time the president’s job approval rating was 57 percent. Since then, he hasn’t hit higher than 54 percent and the majority of polls have been closer to 50 percent, with the lowest being 46 percent in a Rasmussen poll conducted at the end of October.
In Virginia, it’s a little easier, since Obama only got 52.7 percent of the vote in 2008.
But the overall average approval rating for the president is still 49.4 percent at pollster.com, which aggregates all the major opinion polls.
The second time this talking point popped up was in an interview of David Plouffe, the man who managed Obama’s campaign, with the Wall Street Journal.
“For all the talk about the president’s ratings, his job approval rating right now, by most measures, is higher than his vote totals [in 2008],” Plouffe said. “Think about that: In this economy, with unemployment like it is, pretty much everybody who voted for him thinks he’s doing a good job.”
Well, let’s see.
In Ohio, Obama got 51 percent. That would come in lower than some of the current approval ratings.
But how about California. Obama got 61 percent there in 2008. You have to go back to a July 1 Gallup poll to find the president’s approval rating at 61 percent.
Anyway, it’s sort of an arbitrary, let’s-pick-a-measurement-that-allows-us-to-say-his-approval-rating-is-higher-than-something sort of metric. And it makes a virtue out of lower vote totals, since the lower a vote total in a state, the more the White House can say the president’s current job approval is higher.
And then, of course, it’s not entirely accurate for Democrats to make the statement, when you consider the overall poll averages.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times