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Gallup Analysis: Obama’s Chance of a Loss Greater Than a Win

Thursday, 17 May 2012 04:35 PM

With an approval rating stuck below 50 percent, a sour national mood, and polls showing him tied or trailing rival Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama's re-election bid faces an uncertain future.

Gallup polls show that Obama’s job approval rating in the first week of May averaged just 47 percent and a May 3-6 Gallup poll found only 24 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going.

A poll released Thursday in the battleground state of North Carolina showed Romney leading the president, and the same day another poll showed Wisconsin — which Obama won handily in 2008 — is a toss-up, with Obama and Romney in a dead heat.

All this signals bad news for the incumbent president.

“Comparing today's economic and political ratings with those from previous years when presidents sought re-election reveals that today's climate is more similar to years when incumbents lost than when they won,” Gallup noted.

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The 24 percent satisfaction rate is similar to the 20 percent found in May 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, who lost his re-election bid. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both posted satisfaction rates above 35 percent in the May before their successful re-election bids.

“The extent of Americans' concern about the economy — as evident in their top-of-mind mentions of it as the nation's ‘most important problem’ — is greater today than for any president seeking re-election since Jimmy Carter in 1980,” Gallup found.

“The current 66 percent mentioning one or more economic concerns is substantially higher than it was in May 2004 or May 1996, and moderately higher than at the same point in 1992 and 1984. Americans' mentions of the economy did surge in August 1984 to 65 percent — comparable to where they are today — but fell to 51 percent by September.”

Karl Rove, in an editorial published in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday night, noted that Obama is showing up to events in battleground states like Ohio that feel like "an aging rock star" is performing, with seats often going empty.

And earlier this week, his campaign announced his April fundraising dropped by about $10 million in April from the month before.

"The news was that Mr. Obama's fundraising dropped to $43.6 million in April from $53 million in March. At this stage, he will be hard pressed to reach his 2008 total of $750 million, let alone the $1 billion goal his campaign set last year," Rove notes.

Gallup found that the direction of its Economic Confidence Index — a summary of Americans’ views of the economy and its direction — “for the remainder of 2012 could determine Obama's re-election.”

However with a battle against Republican Mitt Romney looming, assessing Obama’s chances of re-election based on his job approval rating is problematic.

All presidents since Lyndon Johnson who won re-election had job approval rates of 49 percent or more in May. All those who lost had approval ratings of 43 percent or lower. Obama, at 47 percent, does not neatly fit into either camp but is close to the younger Bush’s 49 percent in 2004.

“President Obama is running for re-election with Americans feeling about as dissatisfied with the country and the economy as they were in 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost,” Gallup concluded.

“However, with a modest 47 percent job approval average in early May, his approval rating is nearly the same as in 2004 when George W. Bush won. This makes Obama's re-election prospects quite uncertain, but supports the results of Gallup's trial heat tracking showing Obama and Romney essentially locked in a statistical tie.”

Regardless, a May 10-13 USA Today/Gallup poll found that Americans believe Obama will be re-elected by a margin of 56 percent to 36 percent.

“It is unclear why Americans are more inclined to predict an Obama than a Romney victory when the two are essentially tied in Gallup’s latest election polling,” Gallup wrote.

“It may be that Americans recognize the advantages Obama has as the incumbent and that historically, presidents seeking re-election usually win. For example, in March 2004, when President George W. Bush and John Kerry were about tied in voter preferences, more said Bush (52 percent) than Kerry (42 percent) would win. Or, Americans may expect in the months between now and the election that conditions in the U.S. will improve, which would make the incumbent's re-election more certain.”

Editor’s Note: Get Ed Klein's 'Amateur' Obama Book, Save $23, Cheaper Than Amazon

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