The Washington Post

Obama’s bouncing polls: What gives?

I’ve said it once, I’ll keep saying it until it is no longer true. Nothing about the 2012 campaign makes sense. Nothing. First, I was scratching my head because characters like Herman Cain rode high as one of many anybody-but-Mitts for the Republican nomination. Then, I was scratching my head over President Obama’s ability to hold a relatively decent job-approval rating despite high unemployment and a cranky populace. Now, I’m scratching my head over the latest batch of polls and a story on the front page of today’s Post.

Like everyone, I’m suffering from whiplash over the latest polls. The Post-ABC News poll has Obama’s approval rating dropping from 50 percent last month to 46 percent now. The New York Times-CBS News poll shows a stunning 9-point drop for the president, from 50 percent to 41 percent. Meanwhile, the Gallup daily tracking poll over the weekend had Obama at 49 percent. That’s the highest it had been since early February. Today, it’s down to 47 percent. But the Reuters-Ipsos poll released yesterday puts Obama’s approval rating at 50 percent “for the first time since early July.”And Pew Research released a poll this morning showing the president’s approval rating at 50 percent “for the first time since last May.”

Obama’s job-approval slip in The Post poll was attributed to rising gas prices.“Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard,” Dan Balz and Jon Cohen reported. Makes sense to me. reported Sunday that the Lundberg Survey found that the average price of gasoline has jumped 30 cents in four weeks.

But get a load of the first two paragraphs of today’s Post front page story by Ylan Q. Mui.

Americans might complain about higher gasoline prices, but new government data show that hasn’t stopped them from driving to the mall.

Retail sales jumped 1.1 percent in February, the biggest monthly increase since last fall, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Consumers went shopping for new cars, clothes, electronics and sporting goods despite spending 3.3 percent more at gas stations. The results boosted estimates of how fast the economy is growing, particularly on the heels of data showing a strengthening job market.

So, more jobs than expected were created in February, and the estimates for the previous two months were revised upward. The unemployment rate stayed the same. Consumer spending is rebounding. And yet Obama is getting hammered in various polls. Jonathan Chait at New York magazine had an interesting take on why. But, I have to tell you, I just don’t get what’s going on.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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