CNN released an opinion poll today. Given the margin of error, Obama’s Approve/Disapprove numbers remain essentially unchanged since right before the election.
However, the question asking about the right/wrong direction of his policies shows improvement over the past year. In January, the respondents were evenly split at 49%; now it’s 55/42.
Republicans in Congress remain statistically as unpopular as they were this time last year, with a 44/51 right/wrong direction result. The “wrong direction” number is about where it was right before they lost their majority in Congress in 1996, though the “right direction” number has improved significantly, having risen from 36% to 44%. Compare this to the days immediately following Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” election, when the right/wrong split was 55/27, and it’s clear that this year is not similar to 1994. In the past 15 years, the Republicans never had majority “wrong direction” numbers until early 2006. Since then, they’ve been polling majority “wrong direction” more often than not.
The story for Democrats in Congress is a little more complicated. They haven’t polled majority “wrong direction” since the early Clinton years. Currently, they’re evenly split at 48% right/wrong. Since the Democratic takeover in 2006, they’ve consistently been statistically at or above 50% “right direction.” Still, Republicans got the House starting in January; this illustrates the critical nature of voter turnout.
It’s worth mentioning here the distinctions among “polled Americans,” “registered voter,” and “likely voter” models. If the focus is on election outcome predictions, the “likely voter” model is the most appropriate. “Registered voter” is useful mostly as an election outcome predictor well in advance of elections, though its value is dubious even then (at least, that’s what Nate Silver says). But, since our elected officials are representing all Americans within their respective districts, “polled Americans” is best when discussing Presidential policy and the will of the people. Today’s release uses the “polled Americans” model.
Those polled also overwhelmingly approved of the tax compromise bill, with 75% in favor. Let’s look at the individual provisions:
|Tax cut for households earning <$250,000||89%||11%|
|Tax cut for households earning >$250,000||37%||62%|
|Inheritance tax cut||39%||59%|
|Social Security tax cut||62%||36%|
|Deficit increase to cover the cost of the bill||41%||57%|
The overall picture suggests that people liked the provisions they favor more than they dislike the provisions they oppose. But following the will of the people would have resulted in a bill that had tax cuts for those earning under $250,000, an extension of unemployment benefits, and a cut on Social Security taxes…with no increase in the deficit. In other words, it boils down to “tax someone else, and cut someone else’s benefits.”
Yet two-thirds of those polled don’t think that the bill will make any difference in how well off their families will be. It makes me wonder why on earth so many support the bill.