The Washington Post

Why it’s too soon to declare the end of Obama’s post-election honeymoon

Polling data released in recent days suggested that President Obama's post-election honeymoon may well have come to an end. But a review of a wide cross-section of polling conducted over the last few months suggests it's too early to declare Obama the honeymoon over just yet.

It's too soon to declare the end of Obama's political honeymoon. (Photo by Jess Righthand/for The Washington Post)

Here's the bottom line: There are data points that should worry the president and his top advisers. But across the board, his numbers haven't exactly dive-bombed.

There are two polls that that have shown signs of trouble for the president:

* Obama's approval rating  (45 percent) in a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday was virtually unchanged from his approval rating a month ago (46 percent). But it is down from early December, when 53 percent of voters approved of the job the president was doing, a month after his re-election win.

* According to Gallup, which tracks Obama's approval rating among Americans based on a three-day rolling average, Obama's number is now hovering around the high 40s, down from the low 50s where it stood in the months leading up to last week's failure to avert the deep federal spending cuts known as sequestration.

How do those numbers stack up against the rest of the post-election polling that has been conducted? Obama's job approval rating hasn't dropped as severely in other surveys:

So what does this all suggest? A couple of things. For starters, we need to see more post-sequestration polling numbers (the cuts kicked into effect last weekend) to get a better sense of what the cuts ultimately mean for Obama's political standing.Second, Obama's hasn't lost all of the momentum he picked up post-election. While the president has been embroiled in high-profile fiscal standoffs with Congressional Republicans, the fights haven't done serious damage to his brand.

It's important to note that the outcome of the first fiscal battle, over the fiscal cliff, turned out much better for Obama than the second one, over sequestration. He largely got what he wanted in the deal to avert the cliff, as Republicans agreed to tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. But on sequestration, Republicans didn't cave into his demands for a mix of new tax revenues and alternate spending cuts -- and much of the post-sequester coverage has focused on how Obama's warnings haven't come true.

Aside from Obama's approval rating, there is some data that suggest signs of trouble for Obama coming out of the sequestration standoff. A CBS News poll showed nearly as many Americans blamed him (33 percent) as blamed Congressional Republicans (38 percent) for failure to avert the cuts. And last month's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found only 32 percent said the country is headed in right direction, down from 41 percent in December.

As the Fix boss wrote in this space about a month ago, the lengths of post-reelection political honeymoons have grown shorter and shorter in recent years (Gallup has a comprehensive study here). Obama, who has a very ambitious legislative agenda right now, is hoping to be the exception to that trend. We'll find out in the coming months if he can pull that off or not.

Jon Cohen, the polling director of Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media, contributed to this report. 

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
We'll have half a million voters in South Carolina. I can shake a lot of hands, but I can't shake that many.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking to a group of reporters about his strategy to regain support after a poor performance in the last debate
Fact Checker
Sanders’s claim that Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies’
Sanders said that Clinton was critical of Obama in 2008 for suggesting meeting with Iran. In fact, Clinton and Obama differed over whether to set preconditions, not about meeting with enemies. Once in office, Obama followed the course suggested by Clinton, abandoning an earlier position as unrealistic.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.