Monday, January 23, 2006

Approval stabilizes, with variation across pollsters

Presidential job approval, July 2005-January 2006. The gray line is the local regression estimate of approval of President Bush. The red lines show the raw data for each pollster during this period. The tendency of the red lines to fall consistenty above or below the gray approval estimate demonstrates the "house effects" that make some pollsters higher or lower on approval ratings.

Approval of President Bush appears to be in a holding pattern. Approval ratings rose through November and early December but have flattened out since mid-December. The current local trend estimate is that approval is holding at 42%.

In an earlier post here, I noted that if you pushed the data hard, you could see a small downturn from a high of approval in mid-December to early January. With more polling now available, I think stability is a more reasonable story. It is still possible to find a 2% downturn from mid-December, but I think that is sensitive to a couple of high approval ratings (also discussed elsewhere here and here). With the data now available, I think flat approval since mid-December is probably the most reasonable conclusion.

A number of polls have appeared since January 1, ranging from 38%-46% approval. However, when we look at these polls individually, we see that most have registered little change since December. For example, the Pew poll of 1/4-8/06 produced a 38% approval rating, but that was unchanged from their previous poll in December. Other polls have risen or fallen by a couple of points, but when considering the pattern of change across all the polls, the conclusion must be that approval is not currently moving in either direction.

This is interesting because the President had substantially boosted his approval in the six weeks leading up to the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Since that period, the White House has been relatively quiet and much political attention has focues on the Alito hearings and other topics. The upshot has been a surprisingly quiet beginning for 2006 in terms of evaluations of the President.

The State of the Union address at the end of the month may mark the kick-off of the 2006 political season in a way that the Alito hearings have not.

Unless new polls say otherwise.