Obama’s negative intensity gap

at 10:50 AM ET, 03/12/2012

Since the moment he entered the White House, President Obama has evoked strong emotions in the American public. But new Washington Post-ABC polling suggests that those who feel negatively toward the President and his policies are far outstripping those who feel positively.

Check out this chart that breaks down the poll data:

The key numbers to compare are those who strongly approve of Obama’s job performance versus those who strongly disapprove. On every issue the Post/ABC poll tested — including Obama’s overall job approval — the number of people who strongly disapprove of him outpaces the number who approve.

The difference between the two numbers ranges from the statistically insignificant (a three percent gap on his handling of Afghanistan) to the eye-popping (a 38-point margin on gas prices and a 30 percent gap on the economy).

What do the numbers tell us? That, as of today, the number of people who passionately believe this president isn’t doing a good job is substantially larger than those who feel equally passionate that he is doing a great job.

That sort of passion gap is not unique to President Obama. Typically, the party out of power is more motivated to retake what they’ve lost than the party in power is to hold on to their current position. It’s why defending your title in sports is widely regarded as more difficult than winning a title in the first place.

That said, the numbers have to be at least somewhat concerning for President Obama and his political team. Those who disapprove of his presidency — particularly on key issues like the economy and gas prices — is not only large but also extremely motivated. That means that if the election revolves around those issues — and it almost certainly will — there will be a large chunk of voters rip-roaring to turn out and make their disapproval known.

Finding ways to build that sort of enthusiasm among his most ardent supporters is critical to Obama claiming a second term in November.

 
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