For the first time since June, Barack Obama is right side up: his approval this week moved slightly higher than his disapproval on Pollster’s poll-of-the-polls trend line.
Indeed, Obama’s current 47.7% approval rate is almost a two-year high. He briefly reached as high as 48.8% last January, but never matched that during the bin Laden rally last spring. Before that, you have to go back to February 2010 to find him up to 48%. Other calculations yield similar results, such as the polling average at Real Clear Politics, which also has Obama at 47.7 but had him a bit higher earlier this month.
The current rally is now about six months old. It began after Obama reached his all-time low on the Pollster trend line in the first week of September, hitting 42.6%. It’s maybe worth noting that there are no specific events associated with the rally. Presumably, the president is being helped by an improving economy. It’s certainly possible that his shift to talking more about jobs since September — or, perhaps, his shift away from talking about federal budget deficits — has helped.
That suggests the president will continue to grow slowly more popular as long as the basic news environment remains the same — continued moderate-but-real economic recovery, which was reflected in today’s unemployment, GDP, and income numbers.
It’s still too early for polling to be very meaningful, but to the extent that any of it is worth paying attention to, I would still recommend the watching the president’s approval numbers and basically nothing else. In particular, I wouldn’t pay any attention at all to Mitt Romney’s current polling doldrums. Jamelle Bouie reminds us today that Bill Clinton had similarly lackluster numbers at this point in 1992, but once he moved closer to his convention, he rapidly improved, and it turned out that his primary-stage weaknesses predicted nothing at all. Similarly, Romney’s current weakness is going to depress his totals in head-to-head polling trial heats. I’m as big a political junkie as there is, but I’m almost entirely ignoring those right now.
The best polling hint about where the election is at right now can be found in Barack Obama’s approval numbers. And while they’re a long way from “sure thing,” it’s certainly good news for the president that he’s finally emerged from months of being upside down in those polls.