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

New poll: Obama and Gingrich are tied in “unfavorability,” but far apart in “favorability”
By Eric Black

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.

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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.