The Washington Post

How Obama’s job approval rating isn’t influenced by the likability question

So how does the public go about deciding whether they approve of the job President Obama is doing? Here's a hint: It's not about whether or not they think he is likable.

Roughly three in four Americans say the label "is likable" applies to Obama, according to a new Gallup survey. But that opinion has no meaningful bearing on whether or not they approve of the job the he is doing, Gallup's analysis shows.

Gallup performed an analysis of character ratings of Obama in order to determine how relevant they are to his job approval rating. Likability is among the weakest predictors. The question of whether the president "shares your values" is the strongest predictor, followed by whether he "displays good judgment in a crisis" and is "honest and trustworthy."

According to the data, those who believe Obama shares their values are about six times more likely than those who do not to approve of the job the president is doing. In the poll, it's worth noting, only about half of Americans say the quality "shares your values" applies to Obama.

Obama's job approval rating in Gallup polling has been in the mid to high 40 percent range in recent months, and in the neighborhood of 50 percent in other surveys. As the Fix boss recently noted, Obama's approval rating has remained remarkably steady in recent years, largely due to consistent partisanship. So the fact that the "shares your values" question has the strongest correlation to job approval makes sense. People of the same political party are more likely to agree on which values matter.

Given that part of the public is going to consistently say that Obama does not share their values, the judgment in crisis and honest/trustworthy variables are especially interesting. Gallup's data show that Obama has most of the public on his side on both fronts right now, even as his administration has been surrounded by controversy involving the Internal Revenue Service's extra scrutiny of conservative groups and revelations about the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance efforts.

But if that changes, so too will Obama's job approval rating, it appears.


The White House delayed for a year the requirement that businesses provide health insurance to their employees.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has "exciting future plans" to announce Monday.

A plane carrying Bolivia's president was redirected because of the belief that Edward Snowden could be onboard. He was not.

Former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds (R) raised more than $600,000 for his Senate campaign during the second quarter, after having a lousy first quarter.

A Democratic state senator in Virginia called on Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to explain or return gifts a donor gave to members of his family -- or resign.


"As Cuccinelli campaigns, some big GOP donors keep wallets closed for now" -- Ben Pershing, Washington Post

"Texas Governor Fuels Speculation About His Next Move" -- Manny Fernandez, New York Times

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

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