Public Support for Obama: A Challenge to Critics (especially Shagnasty)

On Feb. 12, Shagnasty posted the following sentiment:

I offered the following wager:

Wisely, he never returned to the thread, because today Obama’s approval rating is slightly higher than it was on Feb. 12th. It never even got close to 50%. What’s more, today’s AP poll shows that 48 percent of Americans believe the United States is headed in the right direction–up 8 points since February and 31 points since October. This is the first time the “right track” number has been positive since the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Since Shagnasty didn’t agree to the bet, this isn’t an attempt to collect. Instead, I wanted to see if he and his supporters have changed their minds about where the American public stands on the issues. Right now about 30% of the country opposes Obama. That is about the same percentage of people who supported Bush until the bitter end. Do any of you think that number will rise substantially in the foreseeable future (say, the next 3 months?). If so, why? If not, why not?

[Please note: I am not contending that public support means anything about the objective correctness of Obama’s policies.]

Wow. I cannot think of anything that Obama or his administration did in the first three weeks of his presidency (or in the 2 months since) to merit such harsh criticism. Was this in reaction to Tom Daschle not paying his taxes or Judd Gregg rejecting the Commerce position? If so, over-react much?

Shouldn’t this OP have waited for another three weeks or so? Even if Shagnasty had taken the bet, it’s not yet a full three months since Feb. 12.

Let’s keep this in perspective: Bush was so unpopular that Obama is going to get an artificial boost for some time to come simply by virtue of clearly and unmistakeably not being Bush. (McCain would not have, for obvious reasons.)

BrainGlutton, that’s an easy out. With that perspective, Obama could be the Crown Champion of Presidents in the eyes of the people, but it would have to be “artificial” because, after all, he’s not George W. Bush.

President Obama doesn’t just shine in comparison.

I voted for and generally support Obama.

I do not think his poll numbers will rise substantially in the foreseeable future.

First there is a honeymoon effect for a new president. He is not quite out of his first 100 days as president yet.

Second, the public seems to understand that the problems facing us will actually take time to correct and willing to give Obama a pass on that. Fortunately people were realistic enough to know he could not just come in, wave a magic wand and make all well. However, they will need to see progress and how much progress is needed to keep them happy is likely a continuum. Will always be some at the edges who will not think it is fast enough or some policy is misguided and will drop off the band wagon.

Third, as alluded to the ability to get much higher numbers than he has requires dipping into the republican pool. There are some at the edges who are not diehard and gettable but the higher you go the more passionately opposed people you will find. These are the people who will probably never, ever think anything he does could be correct or good regardless of the truth of the matter. Think Limbaugh Dittoheads.

Add it all up and getting Obama’s ranking substantially higher is an uphill battle to say the least. Anything is possible but Vegas odds on this would be long.

Even if McCain had somehow won the election - suppose Obama had committed some unbelievably monstrous blunder - there’s no way his approval rating drops to 30% within three months of taking the oath of office. That just does not happen.

There’s no way he gets the approval rating Obama has now, either – not because McCain would be a bad president, but because he would be a Republican coming after Bush.

A republican coming after Bush who espoused (generally) continuing Bush policies.

And the irony of a generally disapproving public who, nonetheless, fervently prayed for his continuing good health.

He didn’t take the bet, so my self-imposed 3 month deadline was pretty much irrelevant to a post about whether Obama critics still think he will crash and burn. I wrote the OP yesterday because I came across the poll about “right track” being positive for the first time since '04. I reminded me of the subject.

You’ve misread the OP. The question was whether his unfavorables would rise.

It would have been a fools bet. Obama is certainly going to get a honeymoon period not just as the new president but as a new DEMOCRATIC president, after years of perceived misrule by the Republicans. Unless he fucks up in a monumental fashion (which I seriously doubt), I don’t think his numbers are going to plunge this early on.

At this point I think most American’s are hopeful but are probably taking a wait and see position on Obama (and even more on the Democratically held House and Senate). Those who are seriously for (or against) Obama right now are the partisan types who would be in their respective positions regardless of how good or bad he was doing.

The true test will be to look at Obama’s figures in his second term, after his (and the Dems in the House and Senate) policies and programs have started to really have a noticeable effect. If the economy takes a nose dive then you are going to see people getting angry and you will probably see Obama’s numbers start to drop. On the foreign policy front, if Afghanistan goes tits up then we will probably also see a drop in Obama’s numbers, since this is part of his new focus and initiative (I don’t think that Obama’s numbers will be significantly effected if Iraq goes TU, as seems to be happening, as this is rightfully perceived as Bush’s war).

I think the original ‘challenge’ would have been silly for anyone except a frothing at the mouth partisan to take. It’s WAY too early to tell. Myself, I wouldn’t even take the bet on Obama’s numbers dropping in the second term…not at this point, not until I have a better idea where we are going and the possible outcomes.


Yes, that was my point. It takes some degree of bias to think the public was going to turn on Obama over the things Fox News and Drudge turn into the outrage of the day. But Shagnasty wasn’t alone in that thread expressing the sentiment that the poll numbers would eventually plummet, even if he was the only one predicting a specific number in “a few months.”*

And I’m pretty sure none of those people regard themselves as extreme partisans.

But what I’m still hoping to get out of this thread is whether any of those folks have changed their minds about whether the public agrees with them about the outrageous conduct of the young administration. Or, if they think it will take time for the mistakes to settle in, just how long it will take since a few months has not been sufficient time.
*E.g. Elfkin477 (“I do think his approval ratings due for a plunge - just as soon as the stimulus package fails to stimulate the economy in a meaningful way.”), Sam Stone (“Obama’s still got lots of support from the public . . . But his administration is reeling it in fast, and it’s not going to be there forever.”), Magiver (Various mistakes will “come back and bite him in the ass.”), et al.

Would it be right to compare Obama with Reagan? Both came to power after poorly perceived presidencies. How was Reagan faring at this point?

Quoth xtisme:

I think an even truer test, or at least a far more relevant one, will be whether he gets a second term at all. In the end, we can look at all the opinion polls we want, but the most important one is only held once every four Novembers.

I have to say I’ll be shocked beyond belief if Obama does NOT get a second term. I think it’s practically a given, unless the country goes completely down the tubes in the next few years. Obama is another Clinton…not another Carter.


Whether or not they regard themselves as such, they are quite partisan. Not that that is in itself a bad thing, but their opinions are in no way objective.

I would be surprised as well (though I don’t think I would be “shocked beyond belief”-- I’ll reserve that for cold fusion working, Milgrom’s gravitational theories being proven, or LISA getting launched by the US), but that’s just another way of saying that I suspect that he’ll pass that crucial test.

Meh, if the economy is still tanked (or tanks again) come next presidential election, nothing can save him.

If he could successfully make the case that he was hampered by Congressional Republicans (which, given their current behavior, wouldn’t be hard to do), it wouldn’t hurt much.