Given the election results in VA and NJ earlier this month, and the steady din of conservative propaganda suggesting that the public is ready for some sort of coup d’etat, you’d think public opinion research would show a radical worsening of the President’s approval ratings in recent month, particularly among those independents who are all supposedly signing up for tea parties.
At pollster.com, Charles Franklin takes a long look at polls for the last three months that break down public opinion by partisan self-identification, and reaches a very different conclusion:
There have been several articles in the last week about independents deserting the Dems. A good bit of that was spurred by the huge Rep margins among independents in VA (66-33) and NJ (60-30-9) governors races. There are also some indications on policy issues that independents are not supporting Democratic positions.
But support for Obama has not plummeted among independents, and that needs to be clarified before it becomes erroneous conventional wisdom. It especially makes no sense to compare independent support in January with independent support now, and conclude there has been a collapse of support. The pattern this fall, since Sept 1, has been quite stable among independents. Depending on which polls you use, a shade up or a shade down, but overall, not a huge trend either way over the past 3 months.
In fact, says Franklin, Obama’s approval ratings among Americans other than conservative Republicans are pretty stable. And despite all the talk about vicious infighting among Democrats, no variety of Democrat seems to be changing its mind about Obama:
There is no evidence that any group of Dems, especially liberal Dems are unhappy with Obama’s performance. Critical is that moderate and even conservative Dems have not moved away since August. Angry conservative Reps are indeed very unhappy with Obama, at almost the same level of disgust as Dems felt for Bush, but they too have reached a plateau at a steady 10% approval. The small number of moderate Reps have also plateaued (I’d discount small moves in the last week of the aggregation.)
So the point is simple: Claims of abandonment of Obama by independents (or lib-Dems or con-Dems) are substantially exaggerated over the past three months. Significant decline from May through August, yes indeed among Inds and Reps, but that trend halted in August.
In other words, a lot of the talk about Obama’s descent into a public opinion slough of despond is just the usual spin.