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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Chait: Dems, Don’t Overstate the Recovery

Jonathan Chait’s insightful post “The Obama Poll Drop Mystery: Explained!” at New York Magazine makes an important point about the recent drop in the President’s approval rating Dems should consider. Chait explains the problem:

…Some significant chunk of the population has turned sour on Obama over the last few days…The mystery is why. The Post attributed the drop to a rise in gasoline prices. But the evidence suggests this isn’t a major factor. (See Brad Plumer’s persuasive take.) The Times just threw up its hands. There are no apparent causes of such a drop — no economic catastrophe, no scandal, no foreign policy fiasco, no gaffe. Indeed the news seems to have been smooth and positive for Obama.

Chait cites a recent DCorps survey indicating that “the America is back” section of the President’s SOTU was overstated and premature:

“America is back” is by far the weakest operative message and produces disastrous results. It is weaker than even the weakest Republican message and is 10 points weaker in intensity than either Republican message. Overall, less than a third of all voters said this message makes them more likely to support the President and a third said this message made them less likely to support Barack Obama. Alarmingly, this message barely receives majority support among self-identified Democrats — and even less support among all other groups. Less than a quarter of independents say this message would make them more likely to support the President and no independents said that it would make them much more likely to support him.

Noting that the President trumpeted the favorable jobs report, Chait adds that “Respondents, according to the survey, still felt enormous economic pain and insecurity, and interpreted any positive statements as a sign of complacency and detachment.” Chait’s theory makes sense in light of the timing of the poll drop, and he concludes “The public is ready to credit him [the President] for trying, they really hate the Republicans, but they do not think that it’s morning in America and respond badly to any suggestion that they ought to feel cheerful.”

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