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Screen grab of Gallup's job approval ratings of President Obama from mid-August until the present.
President Obama's job approval, according to Gallup, from mid-August until the present.
President Obama's lead over Mitt Romney has ebbed in both the Gallup daily tracking polls and the Rasmussen tracking polls over the past five days, as most of our readers almost certainly noticed.

Predictably, this has led to a flurry of conventional wisdom tweets and observations about how "the conventions don't matter."

The problem with that rapidly hardening CW is that it is almost certainly untrue.

Consider the graphic at the top of this article. The vertical line tagged with "Sep '12" marks an excellent dividing line for understanding the impact of the conventions. Sept. 1 lay in-between the GOP confab down in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

And in those two squiggly lines we can find three separate critical points of analysis that seem to speak to far more than ephemeral "bounce" in the numbers.

  • Notice all the movement prior to Sept. 1. More appropriately, not the relative lack of consistent movement prior to Sept. 1. This is immensely telling. President Obama's approval numbers for the bulk of August were middling, at best, and pretty damned lousy, at worst. But notice that the lines immediately to the left of the August/September dividing line show no dramatic dip, and an immediate recovery. Translation: Any Republican attempts to define (or, more appropriately, ill-define) Barack Obama at the RNC failed miserably. His numbers not only held, but we see a clear movement towards approval parity immediately in the wake of Tampa. Did voters suddenly like Obama more, considering the alternative that had just been presented to them? It's hard to say, but what is easy to say is that three days of Chicken Little-esque rhetoric about how badly Obama had failed the nation did not translate to a change in voter perceptions about their president. Which would also explain why the RNC failed to produce a head-to-head bounce for Mitt Romney, to boot.
  • But then, look what happens to the immediate right of that August/September dividing line. Obama's job approval ratings immediately lurch upward, first to parity (a place where they had not been in the previous month) and then into net positive territory. Within a few days of the close of the convention, Obama's job approval numbers were in a place that they had not been since Osama bin Laden was killed. Only a partisan cheerleader could dispute that the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte did a markedly better job of restoring positive sentiments about Obama than the RNC did at boosting Romney (or diminishing Obama).
  • However, the most important statistic might well be the final one. President Obama has had net positive job approval for the last 12 days in a row. That has not happened since June of 2011, when the rally effect of the bin Laden death was still in full bloom. Indeed, then his job approval was net positive for over a month. Throughout this campaign cycle, however, it has not happened. And, given the fact that Gallup is a three-day tracking poll for job approval (as opposed to seven days for the head-to-head trial heats), it would be very difficult for critics to dismiss Gallup's numbers as a product of the DNC, given that it ended 10 days ago.

Taken as a whole, the picture painted by the tracking poll graphic at the top of this piece tell the tale of two very different conventions. No one has ever been elected president via decent September job approval numbers. But, some reelection bids have been thrown away in September. And the early signs are that the RNC failed to sink Obama, and the DNC may well have resurrected his image. The improvement may well be marginal, but when you are trying to lock down a narrow lead, a marginal improvement could be enough.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Looks like your X Axis is missing numbers. (6+ / 0-)

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:20:29 PM PDT

  •  The 50% mark in Job approval (6+ / 0-)

    is pivotal to the President's re-election prospects. Add in the seeming self-immolation of the Romney campaign today and this election may indeed be close to being over.

    I never thought I would see a more incompetent campaign than the 2008 McCain debacle but I guess I was wrong.

    This has the makings of a potential blowout as the white working class may yet decide to pull the lever for the President on Nov. 6.

  •  Reince takes the dung ball and runs with it.... (7+ / 0-)

    RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Says Romney Was “On Message” Regarding 47% Comment

    Mitt Romney treats people like things. And he treats things - corporations - like people.

    by richardak on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:25:23 PM PDT

    •  So did Ari Fleisher on CNN who (10+ / 0-)

      went on a rant about how 47% of Americans get stuff  for free and they feel entitled. I can not believe they are doubling down on this!!

      •  Pitch: 'If you DON'T consider yourself a slacker,' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Supavash

        Vote Romney.

        It's not bad, if that indeed is their pitch, or at least their fall-back response.

      •  Doubling down may do the least damage... (4+ / 0-)

        the base genuinely does love this stuff, meanwhile, a denial would not be believed by anyone else and would offend the GOPers.  Of course, Romney's campaign gets fucked either way, however, the base not staying home may make the loss slightly less humiliating and help the down ballot races.  That said, they are giving a huge motivation to vote for anyone who doesn't want a sleazy plutocrat in office who is intent on fucking over the country.

        Mitt Romney treats people like things. And he treats things - corporations - like people.

        by richardak on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:40:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This drives me completely crazy! (0+ / 0-)

      I am 50, my husband is 53.  He is a design engineer.  Had 2 jobs his entire life until early 2008 when he was laid off after working at one firm for 16 years.  Out of work for 9 months. We used the unemployment benefits.  Also the Obama's save on keeping health insurance.  We paid for it. My husband is now employed with Texas Instruments and makes about $170K a year.  But without that what Obama did as far as healthcare benefits and getting the unemployment, we would have been in a way worse position.  We are not poor and have assets.  But we are not rich like Romney.

      My husband paid into those programs and so did I when I was working before having kids.    It wasn't a handout.  It was something that helped us get through a tough time.

  •  the night al gore's convention ended (4+ / 0-)

    the pundits said he'd solidified his base but it wouldn't be enough to overcome bush's lead. and then over the next week, the polls showed gore vaulting into a solid lead, and so the pundits had to work double time to find a way to undermine it. and of course in the coming weeks the polls would show that the people who actually watched the gore-bush debates thought gore had won them, while those who only learned about them by watching or reading the pundits thought bush won them by a large margin.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:25:38 PM PDT

  •  CW may not think (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99

    conventions matter, but scholars do.

    Grew a mustache and a mullet / Got a job at Chick-Fil-A

    by cardinal on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:25:53 PM PDT

  •  The 50% mark in the 3 day job approval (0+ / 0-)

    tracker would tend to predict better numbers for Obama in the  horse race tracker which is 7 days, and presently at 48-45.

    The definition of INSANITY: Voting Republican over and over and over and expecting the economy to get better.

    by pollbuster on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:27:37 PM PDT

  •  encouraging (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, pademocrat

    but i don't think any poll or news really matters except 2 weeks before the election. It could be possible that we blow our whole load early. External factor(israel, iran war maybe?) could also have significant effects.

  •  The PROBLEM is that GALLUP and RASMUSSEN (3+ / 0-)

    aren't polls, they're PR flacks for the GOP.

    If you add arsenic to something, no matter how tasty it was before, you've still turned it into poison.

    Same is true of polling.  If you mix PR into legitimate polling you get garbage.

    "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity." --W. B. Yeats

    by Pragmatus on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:33:02 PM PDT

  •  What's amusing is how hard most of the pundits (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PorridgeGun

    including many on MSNBC tried to sell the story that the RNC had a good convention, other than the Eastwood debacle of course.  Ann Romney was so warm and loving. The Dems are envious of all the minorities in the Republican field. Wow, that Chris Christie gave The. Best. Speech. Ever.

    Lots of filtering, and the citizens sittng on their sofa,  watching the conventions looked at each other and asked, "who are these buffoons and did they just watch the same speech we did?"

    2012, the year the pundits proved how useful they really are.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:33:29 PM PDT

  •  You want an amusing number? Ed Show poll today on (3+ / 0-)

    if you think the Romney tapes show his true view of the poor:
    99%-yes
    1%-no. Romney still has the backing of 1 % of the American public.

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

    by TofG on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:40:24 PM PDT

  •  we have been watching an implosion of a party (3+ / 0-)

    the GOP has been in a slow train wreck since about 1994 when the rabid congress came into power with Newt in charge and Rush bellowing away on the radio.

    This was the logical conclusion.

  •  GOP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SusanInTXunfortunately

    One can only hope this is the real implosion. I have felt all along that this election, once rmoney was chosen, would move steadily in Obama's direction. We need to take full advantage of the weakness at the top of the ticket and end up with full control of the congress. Any work on a Suffolk poll for MA-Sen. supposedly coming out tonite?

  •  Reince and Ari (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    OMG are there 2 more obnoxious sombitchs than these 2...will the fade away in to the darkness after 11/06/12? If the GOP keeps "mensas" like these 2 to carry their water they (the GOP) are in for a very long, cold winter. People like this no longer have any credibility or relevance. This 47% video is just another kick in the groin for the republican brand. And romney says Hispanic really belong with the GOP...

    •  They get paid to be a$$holes (0+ / 0-)

      The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

      by a2nite on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 06:20:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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