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Obama approval: No oil spill effect

Topics: Barack Obama , Jimmy Carter , presidential approval

In the wake of President Obama's speech to the nation about BP and the Gulf last night, it's worth noting that his approval ratings have not been affected by the spill so far. The speech is unlikely to have a significant effect either.

I'm laying down a marker on these two points because of the likelihood that a post hoc narrative will be created in which the Gulf spill and/or the speech played a major role in Democratic losses in the 2010 midterms or a subsequent Obama defeat in 2012. This is precisely what happened after Jimmy Carter's so-called "malaise" speech, which is frequently used to "explain" Carter's subsequent defeat in 1980. Here, for example, is a random Omaha World Herald editorial from 1995 I found in Nexis:

A few commentators seized on Clinton's rumination and compared it to Jimmy Carter's 1979 "malaise" speech. Carter's call for America to shake itself out of a national malaise and regain its self-confidence was perceived by some people as a whiny effort by a president searching for something to blame for his low ratings in the polls. It's believed that in appearing to rebuke the public, Carter alienated voters, contributing to his election defeat in 1980.

In reality, Carter's approval ratings after the speech, while low, were generally stable until the Iranian hostage crisis. His defeat can easily be explained by the state of the economy, which was terrible:

Hibbs

Remember, dramatizing an event (e.g., Carter's defeat) is not the same thing as explaining it. It's not clear that the malaise speech had a significant effect on Carter's fortunes, and so far there's no evidence that the oil spill or last night's speech have had a significant effect on Obama's.

Update 6/17 3:49 PM: See also Greg Marx's take at CJR.

[Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com]

 

Comments
hoosier_gary:

You are pre-emptively declaring that this speech will have no effect on November's elections? That's a little presumptive, isn't it?

How badly the oil spill is hurting Obama's ratings is debatable. His approval number has hit record lows over the past 10 days with both Gallup and Rasmussen. They have been bouncing around - they were up at Rasmussen when they were down at Gallup and now it is just the reverse.

Both Rasmussen and Gallup use 3-day rolling results. Rasmussen's poll this morning only includes one day post-speech. They have him at a 43% approval - only one point higher than yesterday's all-time low of 42%.

Gallup's weekly approval at 44% last week was their lowest ever for Obama. We'll see what happens over the next week once the enormity of how badly Obama failed in this speech sinks in.

What is interesting in this is that Obama has negative approval in almost every individual category. He is below 40% approval on the oil spill. If you took the average approval of the individual issues he would probably be in the 42% range which shows that people don't like anything he does but they still like him personally. That is unsustainable.

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hoosier_gary:

Before someone jumps all over me - 44% wasn't his weekly approval average. That was the low point. I think the average was 46% which was a record low as well.

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Marcello Mastroianni:

To be blunt, this is shocking. There's no question that the Feds failed to enforce safety regulations that could have prevented this mess, and there's no question that the President is ultimately responsible for that failure. Yet no-one outside of Louisiana seems to care. It's amazing how so many "environmentalists" are willing to look the other way when it's one of their own making a mess.

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hoosier_gary:

Marcello: you are seeing the cult effect of the Obama phenomenom. A cult following will not blame the cult leader for anything. It is always someone else's fault.

Obama will always keep his cult core of about 30% of the country. They will never turn on him.

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Aaron_in_TX:

Most environmentalists want no drilling whatsoever.

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AJbaker:

Marcello:

BP is as BP does. You mean BP needed a nanny state over-regulating them and taking away their freedom? Their greed ruined the Gulf and complaining that the police didn't catch them till after the fact does not reduce that corporation's own responsibility.

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