"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Polling Oddity at Rasmussen

UPDATE:  Gallup shows that Obama had his lowest weekly approval rating yet of 40% total.   You look at this graph and think, "maybe the preference cascade has already started":


Scott Rasmussen runs one of the best polling companies in America.   On Presidential approval, his metric of the "approval index" (strong approval minus strong disapproval) measures what people who really care think between elections better than a straight survey of "adults" (many of whom simply can't be bothered to have an opinion).  

Anyway, the "approval index" for President Obama has weirdly been stuck on -22% for five straight days.   Only 20% of Americans polled strongly approve of Obama's performance in office, while 42% strongly disapprove.   It's been that way for five straight days.

That seems so bizarre to me as a matter of statistics -- different polls over different days, including weekends, ought to yield some volatility in the results -- that I think it must mean something.   Here's what it might mean.  

I think that Obama has gotten close to the bottom of his support.   I think there are at least 20% of Americans, including the hard-core left and African-Americans, who will strongly support him no matter what he much he fails, because it's an article of faith to them.   I'm not sure that number can go much lower.

Meanwhile, the 42% who strongly disapprove are conservatives who are following what he's doing, and horrified by it.   That number can't go higher, at least not right now.  

Why not?   Well, the remaining 40% or so of the electorate includes a large cohort of Americans who simply can't be bothered to have opinions, and never will.   Call them the "zombies" or the "brain dead" or whatever.   But they exist.  Maybe 20%.  

But I also think there's a substantial group, perhaps 20%, of nominal "independents" who, after years of being preached at to be "moderate" or to "compromise," think having strong opinions is bad manners and "extremist."   They don't support Obama, they just don't want to be heard denouncing him, not yet, because they are afraid it would make them look like all those unwashed masses who listen to Rush Limbaugh or like Sarah Palin.  

So we're stuck, at least for now, with 20% strongly supporting the President, and 40% or so strongly opposing him, and the rest of the electorate either not really caring or not really wanting to speak out yet.   That's why Rasmussen is stuck in a holding pattern.

Here's what I think will happen.   We can't reach the 20% hard-core Obama supporters, and never will.   And we can't reach the 20% or so of the "brain dead" and they won't vote anyway.   But we can, just maybe, reach some of those independents who are just still too afraid to say that they "strongly disapprove" of Obama because they think it's too "harsh" or "mean."   They're not quite there yet, but over the next year those independents just need a push to come over into the light.   When they do, the "preference cascade" that will lead to a landslide against Obama will start.

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