If Ronald Reagan was the Teflon President, Barack Obama may be the Kevlar President — bad news can bruise him, but none can pierce his armor to cause any severe damage to his approval ratings.
That’s according to Gallup Editor In Chief Frank Newport, who spoke to reporters Tuesday at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Newport says he’s crunched the numbers as far back as they go in Gallup’s polling archive and found that no one’s done as well as Obama when the public is as unhappy with the economy.
“Based on where every president has been, his approval rating now is higher than we would predict it would be based on satisfaction [with how the country is doing],” Newport said.
Despite slight fluctuations one way or the other (such as after he ordered Osama bin Laden’s death) Obama’s Gallup approval has remained pretty steady. And, Newport says, that makes no sense.
See, the number of Americans who think things are overall going well in the country is extremely low — just 16% were satisfied in the last Gallup survey — and history dictates that number is tied to the way people feel about the economy. And Americans are not happy with the economy.
That means Obama’s numbers should be extremely low, too. But they’re not.
“He is overperforming,” Newport said. He pointed out that both the Democrat Bill Clinton and the Republican Reagan dipped into the 30s in their approval ratings during their first terms in office. Both men, like Obama, were facing a tough economy and the low level of voter satisfaction with the overall state of the country that goes with that.
And yet: “So far, despite similarly bad economic perceptions, Obama has not fallen into the 30% range,” Newport said.
Newport’s got some theories, and he’s promised to explore the topic further in an upcoming analysis. For now, though, he says two potential reasons stand out.
“The two major threads of theories are something about the personality of the man, and the other is the nature of coalition politics today,” Newport said. “[They have] become such that he has a strong coalition of certain types of voters who are going to support him no matter what and that props up his approval rating.”
That’s the armor that protects Obama. But with the economy still as bad as it is — and voters still as upset as they are — that might not last forever. But a dip would mean that something has gone wrong with the armor Obama’s carrying.
“If he [falls into the 30% range], that’ll be a significant point,” Newport said.