The Importance of the Question

A number of people have wondered why the numbers from Rasmussen Reports look different from polling conducted by other outlets, specifically why Barack Obama's approval rating in their daily tracking poll comes in lower than most other surveys. Central to the answer of this question is the fact that Rasmussen surveys only those it believes to be "likely voters" -- a value judgment, particularly this far away from the 2010 and 2012 elections -- and, additionally, that Rasmussen is using recorded interviews rather than live interviews. But that's not all.

As Pollster.com noted last week, and as I have been meaning to write about for some time (but have been waylaid with preparing for finals), the question being asked in the survey matter, too. Rasmussen was good enough to run three simultaneous polls last month asking three variations of approval rating questions: (1) Asking respondents whether they approve or disapprove; (2) Giving respondents four choices rather than two, asking them if they strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove; and (3) Giving respondents four choices, but four unbalanced ones, asking respondents if they think the President is doing an excellent, good, fair or poor job (unweighted because it lumps the ambivalent answer of "fair" into the disapprove category). For reference, Rasmussen traditionally uses question (2). Here were the numbers they found:

The differences are quite apparent: While the traditional question yields numbers that look a lot like the national trend, the question normally used by Rasmussen yields numbers that are flipped on their head. The third question, used by some pollsters like Harris, yield even more divergent numbers, data that look nothing like other polling.

Why does this matter? Many aggregating the polls are lumping together every survey regardless of the question being asked. While this is effective in gauging the overall trend -- which, don't get me wrong, is extremely important -- it obscures the picture of where the President currently stands by including with the traditional approval/disapproval question survey questions that tend to yield much lower "approval" ratings. In other words, it lumps in three different things as if they were the same. It would be like putting in a basket oranges, mandarins and pummelos but simply calling them all "oranges" when it used to be that you only placed oranges (but not mandarins or pummelos) in the basket.

So it's something to consider when looking at Rasmussen surveys, as well as trend estimates of the President's standing among the American people.

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Support for Obama Dropping Among Democrats

So says two new polls. First, here are numbers from Gallup showing demographic shifts in support for President Obama on a week-by-week basis. Four weeks ago, 53 percent of the nation approved of the job Barack Obama was doing as President. Today that number stands at 50 percent. One of the biggest movers in the poll? Democrats, whose support for the President fell 6 percentage points, from 88 percent to 82 percent (at a time support from Independents fell just 2 points and backing from Republicans remained flat). Marist caught a similar trend, finding Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped 7 percentage points among Democratic voters, from 84 percent to 77 percent.

While President Obama can't turn around his political fortunes merely by winning back the Democratic base, it is becoming clear that he has some work to do before his party loyalists come home in 2010 and 2012.

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Obama Drops Below 50% in Gallup for the First Time

The latest numbers from the Gallup three-day tracking poll are in, and at present Barack Obama's approval rating stands at 49 percent -- the first time he has slipped below 50 percent in the survey. Forty four percent now disapprove of the job he is doing.

For the past three and a half months, the President's approval rating had varied, though within a clear range, between 50 percent and 56 percent. Today's rating doesn't fall far outside of that range, and the change from the previous few days finding of 50 percent isn't significant. Moreover, more still approve of the President than disapprove of him. That said, this is a marker point, one that will garner more than a few pixels I would imagine.

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Obama Approval on the Rise

You might not notice it from the coverage the President has been receiving in the establishment media, but according to Gallup, Barack Obama's approval rating is now higher than it has been in over two months:

With a 56 percent approval rating in Gallup polling -- exactly the same percentage of backing the President receives in the latest CBS News poll (.pdf) -- Barack Obama now sports better numbers than he has since early August. Indeed, if you look at the Pollster.com trend estimate (either the traditional reading or the more sensitive one aimed at picking up the latest movement), you'll see that President Obama's approval rating is moving upwards and his disapproval rating is moving downwards -- not at all a bad position to be in heading into the final sprint of the healthcare reform process.

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AP Poll Finds Major Bounce for Obama

Again missing the Drudge siren for this latest poll:

An Associated Press-GfK poll says 56 percent of those surveyed in the past week approve of Obama's job performance, up from 50 percent in September. It's the first time since he took office in January that his rating has gone up.

[...]

Overall, 39 percent said they disapproved of Obama's performance in office, down from 49 percent last month.

Not only has President Obama's approval rating jumped a net 16 points in the past month, per AP polling, his rating on a range of issues has been on the rise as well -- healthcare up 6 points, economy up 6 points (though Afghanistan is down). But Pat Buchanan and the crew at "Hardball" told me today that the President is struggling...

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