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New poll: Obama and Gingrich are tied in ‘unfavorability,’ but far apart in ‘favorability’

I’ve mentioned before Wy Spano’s favorite political cartoon in which two voters are leaving the polling place and one says to the other “So which one did you vote against?”

A new Wash Post/ABC poll finds that for the first time more respondents (49%) say they have an unfavorable view of Pres. Obama than say they have a favorable view (48%). The one point difference in the numbers is, of course, statistically insignificant. But it continues a steady rise in Obama’s bad number and steady slide in his good number that has lasted for pretty much his entire presidency. Just before taking office, he scored a 79% on favorability.

By coincidence, Newt Gingrich, who at the moment is deemed the likeliest Repub nominee for 2012, is in a statistical dead heat with Obama for unfavorability rating (Gingrich’s unfave number is 48 percent). But his favorability is just 35 percent.

Basically, as a country, we’re apparently not to favorable toward anyone these days. I’m also reminded of a Nate Silver analysis published in early November in which he desribed two competing theories about what determines the outcome of presidential elections: a “referendum” paradigm, in which the key question is how people feel about the incumbent’s performance and the identity of the opponent barely matters; and a “median voter” paradigm, in which the candidate whose views are closest to those of the voter at the exact middle of the spectrum should win.

Under a referendum analysis, the fact that for the first time ever more Americans view Obama unfavorably than favorably is a big deal. Under a median voter analysis, an Obama-Gingrich matchup looks pretty promising for the Dems. The Post poll finds that Gingrich’s unfavorables have risen recently among Dems and independents. But of course, an election doesn’t have to fit squarely into one paradigm or the other.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/14/2011 - 01:56 pm.

    Meanwhile, today from Gallup:

    “PRINCETON, NJ — Registered voters in 12 key swing states give a slight edge to the two leading Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, over Barack Obama as their preference for president in the 2012 election.”

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/14/2011 - 03:58 pm.

    Since we’re nearly a year away from the election, I take every poll, even the ones with which I agree, with many, many grains of salt. The one that Mr. Swift quotes seems just as reasonable as the one Eric quotes, yet they reach very different conclusions. My guess is that “the truth,” that elusive quality we all like to point to in support of our own positions, is unknowable at this point. In late October of 2012, a poll that shows the Republican nominee a dozen points ahead – or a dozen points behind – Mr. Obama will be something to which those of us interested in politics should pay much closer attention.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/14/2011 - 04:16 pm.

    Until there’s a specific Republican nominee to compare with Obama, the polls are as meaningless as the pols.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/14/2011 - 06:36 pm.

    Presidential polls don’t matter until the candidates debate. Look how Gingrich rose from the bottom to the top just through debate performances.

    The polls will matter after the first Gingrich-Obama debate. Until then they’re meaningless.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/14/2011 - 08:02 pm.

    I’d vote for a third GWB term before a first Newt term. Although I’d still like to see Mr. Obama and Mr. Gingrich debate, or, rather, see the 200 word summary of that debate.

  6. Submitted by John Olson on 12/15/2011 - 07:08 am.

    All these polls mean exactly squat right now.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/15/2011 - 08:04 am.

    The best thing for Obama is for the delusions of Newt continue until November 6, 2012.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/15/2011 - 09:08 am.

    I agree that it is way to early to put much stock in polls. Matter of fact, there is still time for the Democrat party to find an electable candidate.

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