The New Conventional Wisdom: Hillary Clinton Can Lose

Gallup Clinton Sanders July 2015

Not long ago the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was the inevitable Democratic candidate for president for the 2016 election. After bad polling data and unfavorable publicity, the conventional wisdom is starting to shift with some political writers starting to talk about Clinton being defeatable. Chris Cillizza pointed out poor results for Clinton in four recent polls, noting that while it was expected her favorability would drop in a political campaign, the magnitude of her fall is significant:

But, if Clinton’s sinking poll numbers were to be expected as she re-entered the arena, the pace of their drop and the depths to which they have fallen are surprising. Looking at the national numbers, Clinton’s favorable numbers have come close to collapsing over the past eight months or so; her unfavorable numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire are, without exaggeration, near Trump-ian levels — and that’s a very bad thing considering they are the first two states that will cast votes in the primaries and two key swing states in the general election…

My working theory is that Clinton not only returned to the political world but also did so in the least desirable way possible for people who were already predisposed not to like her: Riding a series of stories about her e-mails and the Clinton Foundation donors.

Clinton has had a remarkably bad run of press since she officially became a candidate — punctuated by the now-almost-a-week-long focus on the investigations into whether or not she sent classified materials from her private e-mail address. To date there have only really been two storylines surrounding Clinton in the presidential contest: 1) How she is inevitable as the Democratic nominee, and 2) How her past dealings at the State Department (and after it) are problematic for her presidential campaign.

Neither of those storylines work in Clinton’s favor when it comes to the Republicans and independents with whom she has lost ground. The lack of a series primary fight drives the coronation idea which independents blanch at, and the focus on her e-mails and donations to the Clinton Foundation remind unaffiliated voters and Republicans of all the things they didn’t like about the Clintons back in the 1990s. One thing that isn’t problematic for Clinton is her standing among Democrats, which, as the chart above shows, have stayed not only consistent but consistently high not only nationally but in early states too.

Which leads to the question: How much does Clinton’s unpopularity really matter?

After discussing this issue further, he concluded (emphasis mine):

For Clinton, these polls argue that she may be hard pressed to win a traditional presidential election in which likability matters most. To get to the White House, Clinton almost certainly needs to turn the choice into one about experience and readiness to do the job at hand. If it’s a popularity contest, these early returns suggest she will lose.

The possibility that Clinton would make a poor candidate in the general election could change the willingness of many Democrats to hand her the nomination.

Mark Halparin looked more closely at the  dangers to Clinton posed by Bernie Sanders in writing, Hillary Clinton’s Bernie Sanders Problem Is Bigger Than Anyone Realizes. Well, maybe not bigger than anyone realizes. I’m finding many liberal Democrats who are increasingly confident that Bernie can win the nomination, and that he will make a stronger general election candidate than Clinton. Halparin concentrated more on how Sanders could create problems for Clinton, but the more he creates problems for Clinton, it becomes more likely that, as in 2008, she might be defeated for the nomination.

Ron Brownstein provides a look at what the media narrative on the email scandal can be in an article entitled, Parsing Clinton: What Is She Hiding?Her slippery defense of the email scandal requires a Clintonologist.

Clinton has put herself in a box. She can either hand the server over to an independent third party, who would protect her private email and our government’s working email. Or she can stonewall.

The latter course gives every voter the right—and every self-respecting journalist the responsibility—to ask, “What were you hiding, Hillary?”

What are you hiding?

Even Democratic voters who are now in denial that this is a serious scandal might began to worry about this before the convention.

As I said above, many liberals are more optimistic about Sanders’ chances. H. A. Goodman wrote at Huffington Post last month, Why Bernie Sanders Will Become the Democratic Nominee and Defeat Any Republican in 2016:

What gives Hillary Clinton a better chance of winning states like Ohio (Brookings has a study titledDid Manufacturing Job Losses Hold the Midwest Back) than Bernie Sanders? Unlike Sanders, Hillary was for the TPP and voters weary of China and Vietnam taking jobs away from Americans will think twice about Hillary Clinton.

Also, communities around the country hit by the repercussions of American counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where close to 7,000 Americans died, over 50,000 wounded in combat, and over 900,000 injured, will think twice about voting for Hillary Clinton after her Iraq War vote. Bernie Sanders, however, was on the right side of history with Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s always against horrible trade agreements, supported gay marriage and marijuana legalization (Hillary was against even the decriminalization of marijuana not long ago) and championed a range of other issues.

In other words, the electoral map shows that Bernie Sanders is not only a realistic candidate for president, but his record on a number of issues speaks to a wide range of voters. If Democrats simply vote based on their value system (considering demographic shifts favor Democrats), Bernie Sanders can easily win the presidency. If they nominate Hillary Clinton out of despair, thinking this is still 1999, then email scandals and an Iraq War vote could mitigate any advantages a Democratic challenger has over Jeb Bush or another Republican.

After recent polls came out, Goodman wrote, Reason #1 to Vote Bernie: Sanders Does ‘Better Than Clinton’ Against GOP in Swing States:

It’s believed by some people that Clinton is the only way for Democrats to win the White House. However, this mentality ignores the key issue of trust and how this sentiment will decide the presidential election. For example, Quinnipiac states that, “For 38 percent of Ohio voters, honesty is the top quality in a candidate.” The belief system stating only Clinton can beat a GOP challenger also ignores the recent finding from Quinippiac that reads, “In several matchups in Iowa and Colorado, another Democratic contender, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker.”

Furthermore, the number one reason for Democrats to vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016 is that swing states are already moving away from Clinton (in search of more honest candidates like Sanders) and Election Day is just over 470 days away. If Bernie Sanders has gone from an impossibility, to drawing crowds of thousands, and now running “as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush, and Walker,” then imagine the political world 470 days from now…

Ultimately, in terms of trust, nobody has ever accused Bernie Sanders of being untrustworthy; in fact his honesty at times has been seen as a political liability. If polls had once convinced some voters that Sanders couldn’t win, these same polls should now illuminate a rapidly changing political evolution in key swing states. Quinnipiac recently stated “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is behind or on the wrong side of a too-close-to-call result in matchups with three leading Republican contenders.” Those words, as well as the finding that “U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker,” should be the number one reason to vote for the Vermont Senator in 2016.

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Gallup: Sanders Surges, Clinton Sags in U.S. Favorability

Gallup Clinton Sanders July 2015

After a round of bad polling data for Hillary Clinton, Gallup adds that Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen below her unfavorability rating, and that Bernie Sanders’ favorable score has doubled.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ favorable rating among Americans has doubled since Gallup’s initial reading in March, rising to 24% from 12% as he has become better known. Hillary Clinton’s rating has slipped to 43% from 48% in April. At the same time, Clinton’s unfavorable rating increased to 46%, tilting her image negative and producing her worst net favorable score since December 2007.

Sanders’ increased favorability reflects the broader increase in the public’s familiarity with him since March. Overall, 44% of Americans are able to rate him today, up from 24% in March. Not only has the percentage viewing him favorably increased, but also the percentage viewing him unfavorably has risen, up eight percentage points to 20%.

Clinton certainly continues to hold a strong lead for the Democratic nomination but the chances of being defeated have been increasing. More seriously, Clinton is increasingly looking like a weak candidate going into the general election. Sanders has been on an upward trajectory while opinions of Clinton have been on the decline, especially regarding her dishonesty.

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Donald Trump Continues To Threaten To Run As Third Party Candidate

DONALD-TRUMP

Last week I pointed out that Donald Trump was refusing to rule out running as a third party candidate. Several days later The Hill  received the same response in another interview:

Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Typically primary candidates remain in the race until they drop out of money. Donald Trump differs as he will not run out of money, not being dependent upon contributions from others. He has the ability to remain in the race as long as he desires–including after the conventions are over if he should feel that the RNC has been unfair to him.

While polls continue to show Trump with a lead (which might not last much longer after his comments on John McCain) for the Republican nomination, he is also among the weakest Republican candidates in head to head match ups against Hillary Clinton. A Washington Post/ABC News poll gives a clue as to what it would mean if Trump were to run as a third party candidate:

The survey shows that in a hypothetical three-way race, Clinton is at 46 percent, Bush is at 30 percent and Trump is at 20 percent among registered voters.

Trump takes more support away from Bush than Clinton in such a contest. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton tops Bush by 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters.

The current polls suggest that the Republicans will lose if they nominate Trump, or if someone else wins and Trump decides to run as a third party candidate. These numbers can change quite a bit by next November, but in this poll the vast majority of the votes taken by Trump come at the expense of the Republican candidate, and I would expect that pattern to continue. Possibly the magnitude of Trump’s vote will decrease by then, but this suggests there is an excellent chance that he could take at least five to ten points from the GOP candidate, which would probably tip the balance towards the Democrats should the race become closer (as other polls suggest it might be).

The same pattern is likely to also hold should Sanders or someone else manage to beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, or someone other than Bush be the Republican candidate. It is certainly premature to assume Bush will be the Republican nominee. If he is, the Democratic candidate might not need any help from Trump in winning if Bush keeps taking about phasing out Medicare.

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Sanders Gaining on Clinton in Iowa As Democrats Regain Lead In Party Affiliation

Sanders Wisconsin

After one recent poll showed Sanders pulling within eight points of Clinton in New Hampshire, another poll now shows him gaining in Iowa:

Hillary Clinton enjoys a 19-point lead among likely Democratic caucus-goers in the key state of Iowa over her nearest challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but that advantage has shrunk 26 points since May, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The former secretary of state gets the support of 52 percent of her party’s likely caucus-goers in the state, which holds the nation’s first nominating contest, while Sanders, a Senate independent and self-described socialist seeking the Democratic nomination, pulls in support from 33 percent. In May, the split was 60 percent to 15 percent.

It is the first time Clinton has received less than 60 percent support in the poll, according to assistant poll director Peter A. Brown.

While Clinton still has the lead for the nomination, there are still several months for Sanders to make up this deficit. Typically the Iowa polls remain quite volatile with many caucus voters not deciding until the last minute. National polls for the nomination are virtually meaningless at this point as candidates who do well in Iowa and New Hampshire typically show a major bounce after victories in the first two contests.

Sanders also had a good day campaigning in Wisconsin:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) drew 10,000 supporters, the largest crowd of his campaign thus far, according to reports.
“Tonight, we have more people at any meeting for a candidate of president of the United States than any other candidate,” Sanders told his fans at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wis., according to The Associated Press.

Gallup shows that the Democrats have regained their advantage in party affiliation:

In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans’ party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place…

Democratic gains in party affiliation may be partly linked to more positive views of President Barack Obama, whose job approval ratings were near his personal lows last fall but have recovered, perhaps related to low unemployment, lower gas prices than a year ago and an easing of some of the international challenges that faced the U.S., such as the Ukraine-Russia situation.

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Polls This Year Continue To Show Increase In Liberals And Decrease In Conservatives

Liberals Up Conservatives Down

Previous polls this year (such as here and here) have shown an increase in the number of self-described liberals. When these polls came out, some conservatives were in denial, making claims when I cross posted those poll results elsewhere that it was liberal bias in the polls or tampering with results which led to this results. Perhaps they will be more likely to believe results from the conservative Wall Street Journal, and an analysis from a Republican pollster:

A new analysis of Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll data finds a marked  increase in the share of registered voters identifying themselves as liberals, and an even bigger drop in the share saying they are conservatives.

In three national polls conducted so far in 2015, the analysis found that 26% of registered voters identified themselves as liberals — up from 23% in 2014. At the same time, the share of voters identifying as conservatives dropped to 33% from 37% in 2014.

The analysis by GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who looked at survey data from 2010 to 2015, found that the biggest ideological shifts came among women, young people, Latinos and well-educated voters, as well as people in the West and in cities…

These signs of an ideological shift come at a time when public opinion is rapidly changing in favor of gay marriage — a social view long regarded as liberal that is gaining wider acceptance among members of both parties. On the broader political landscape this year, liberal populism is gaining prominence in the anti-Wall Street rhetoric of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and of liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“Americans’ growing social liberalism is evident not only in how they describe their views on social issues but also in changes in specific attitudes, such as increased support for same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana,” the Gallup report said.

Mr. McInturff’s analysis of WSJ/NBC data found that the demographic group that now has the most liberals  – and that has seen the most dramatic swing to the left since 2010 — is women aged 18-49. Among those voters in 2015 polls, 37% said they were liberal, 23% said they were conservative — a 20 point swing since 2010 when 27% said they were liberal and 33% said they were conservative.

Younger voters also saw a notable swing to the left, with 35% of 18-34-year-olds saying they are liberal and 26% saying the are conservative. In 2010, that age group split 28% liberal-32% conservative.

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Iowa Caucus Poll Shows Strong Support For Clinton But Concerns Over Scandals In General Election; Support For Sanders Increases

The latest Iowa Poll reported by The Des Moines Register continues to show Hillary Clinton with on overwhelming lead over her Democratic challengers but there is some potential bad news regarding the effects of the Clinton scandals:

At least 70 percent of likely Democratic Iowa caucusgoers say they aren’t bothered by any one of three issues that Clinton opponents have pushed as controversies. The issues are her use of a private email server instead of a government account when she was secretary of state; her handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its aftermath; and foreign governments’ donations to the Clinton Foundation.

But 66 percent of the likely Democratic caucusgoers say they think at least one of the three issues could hurt Clinton in the general election if she becomes their nominee, the poll shows.

Sometimes polling results based upon predictions of how others will vote is more predictive of the actual election results than polling based upon how the person answering personally feels.

The poll shows an increase in support for Bernie Sanders, but support for a specific liberal challenger is fluid, with Elizabeth Warren’s support going to Bernie Sanders after Sanders announced his candidacy.

Sanders’ support is notable but could be fleeting, said Steve McMahon, a Washington, D.C., political strategist.

“It’s not a statement of support for Bernie Sanders as much as it’s a proxy for a progressive alternative” to Clinton, he said. A few months ago, many of the same liberals were pining for Warren, he said. “It could be Martin O’Malley or somebody else next month.”

Warren, who was at 16 percent in the January poll, has repeatedly said she isn’t running for president. The poll didn’t include her name this time in a list of possible Democratic contenders.

Thirty-seven percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers in the new poll say Warren better represents their political beliefs than Clinton, up 11 percentage points from January, and 26 percent say Sanders better represents their beliefs than Clinton.

The poll came out too early to determine if Martin O’Malley will receive a bounce after announcing last weekend. As there is still along way to go until the caucus, Sanders, O’Malley, and/or perhaps a liberal challenger not yet in the race might wind up with increased support from what is seen now. Clintons’s support could diminish both as a consequence of holding many positions to the right of the Democratic mainstream, and out of increased concern over the effect of the scandals in a general election as more people start paying attention to them.

Update: Subsequent polls show Clinton falling in the national polls as more distrust her and her favorability is now at a seven year low. She only ties Rubio, Walker, and Paul in head to head match-ups. One poll shows her leading Bush while another shows it to be close.

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Number Of Self-Identified Social Liberals Ties Social Conservatives

Gallup Social Liberals

I tend to minimize the importance of Gallup polls on self-identification by label as they are largely influenced by the effects of the right to demonize the word liberal. Polls based on specific political positions have typically showed more people taking liberal positions than calling themselves liberal. It is of interest that a new Gallup poll shows that the number of those who call themselves liberal on social issues matches those who call themselves socially conservative, both tied at 31 percent. The trend can be seen in the graph above.

Gallup has this observation, which reinforces my greatest fears about the Democratic Party:

The newfound parity on social ideology is a result of changes in the way both Democrats and Republicans describe their social views. The May 6-10 Gallup poll finds a new high of 53% of Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, describing their views on social issues as liberal.

That might partially explain how someone as socially conservative as Hillary Clinton can have such a strong lead in the Democratic race. Of course it is likely that many Democrats are not even aware of what Salon recently called her bizarre alliance with the Christian right.

The Gallup poll continues to show more people identifying as conservative on economic issues although polls on specific economic issues tend to show Americans as more liberal despite how they self-identify themselves.

The results showing an increase in social liberals is consistent with another recent poll on same-sex marriage, which actually shows a far more liberal result. Gallup found that a record high of 60 percent support same-sex marriage. This leaves the Republican candidates out of the mainstream, but as Republicans tend to be less likely to support same-sex marriage this might remain the more politically expedient position for those seeking the GOP nomination. Hillary Clinton appears to have read the polls correctly as she dropped her position of last year favoring leaving the matter to the states.

The trend towards greater support of same-sex marriage is also present in much of the world with Ireland, one of the more socially conservative countries in Europe voting on the issue today. If the referendum passes, Ireland would be the first country in the western world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

One liberal is doing better in the polls. Barack Obama’s favorability rating is up to the highest level since September 2013, increasing four points to 53 percent compared to last month.

Update: Both sides are now saying that the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage has passed in Ireland.

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Good News In Polls On Obamacare, Obama, And The Economy

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll April 2015

There is some favorable news in a couple polls out today. A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows that the number who view the Affordable Care Act favorably or unfavorably is now evenly split, with 43 percent having a favorable view and 42 percent unfavorable. This remains within the margin of error and, while still lower than it should be considering how well the law has worked, is an improvement over previous polls. Last month 43 percent viewed the law unfavorably and 41 percent favorably. A year ag0 46 percent viewed Obamacare unfavorably compared to 38 percent favorably. As expected, there was a large partisan difference in these findings. The poll also showed that few people realize that implementation of the Affordable Care Act has cost less than originally estimated.

A CNN/ORC poll shows an improved approval rating for President Obama, along with increased optimism about the economy:

For the first time since May of 2013, more Americans polled say they have a positive impression of how Obama is handling the presidency than a negative one: 48% approve of the way Obama is handling his job, while 47% disapprove…

Obama’s numbers are on the rise at the same time the public gives the economy the highest ratings of his presidency.

The poll finds 52% describe the U.S. economy as very or somewhat good, while 48% call it very or somewhat poor. That marks the first time since Obama took office that significantly more people describe the economy as “good” than “poor,” and only the second time since then that a majority has described the nation’s economy as “good.”

…Likewise, the public’s outlook for the country’s economic future is remarkably positive. Sixty percent say they expect the economy to be in good shape a year from now, while just 38% say they think it will be in poor shape. That’s the most positive outlook since the height of the 2012 election campaign. Such campaigns typically boost optimism about the economy as people on both sides of the ideological divide believe their candidate will win and ultimately turn things around.

But outside of that campaign, the last time optimism about the economy reached 60% was in April 2009, about three months into Obama’s time in office.

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Clinton Trailing Republicans In Battle Ground States Prior To Announcing Her Candidacy As Voters Consider Her To Be Dishonest

Hillary Clinton is going to announce her candidacy to be the best president money can buy with a video on Sunday. Then later that evening you can see more treacherous people seeking power on this season’s premier of  Game of Thrones. If after watching Clinton’s video you want to watch even more video in which you are constantly being deceived by a dishonest woman, I would recommend watching Gone Girl. 

With her announcement imminent, Clinton continues to drop in the swing state polls. The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton trailing or tied in match-ups against Republicans in Iowa and Colorado while still holding a lead in Virginia:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead is wilting against leading Republican presidential candidates in three critical swing states, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, and she finds herself in a close race with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in each state, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today. In head-to-head matchups, every Republican candidate effectively ties her in Colorado and almost all Republicans effectively tie her in Iowa.

Secretary Clinton has lost ground in almost every matchup in Colorado and Iowa since a February 18 Swing State Poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. The Swing State Poll focuses on key states in the presidential election.

One bright spot for Clinton is Virginia, the largest of the three states, where she leads all Republicans, including 47 – 40 percent over Bush, compared to a 42 – 42 percent tie in February.

Voters in each state say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. Her overall favorability has dropped significantly in Colorado and Iowa, while Virginia is unchanged. Favorability ratings for the Republicans are lackluster, at best.

The poll has her trailing Rand Paul in both Iowa and Colorado. She is even struggling against candidates such as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. Although she does better in head to head matches against the Republican candidates in Virginia, and the numbers aren’t as bad as in the other swing states, Clinton is still not trusted:

Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, Virginia voters say 52 – 40 percent. Her e-mail scandal is important to their vote, 51 percent of voters say, while 47 percent say it’s not so important or not important at all. The e-mail issue makes 39 percent less likely to voter for her, while 56 percent say it makes no difference.

Serious questions about the e-mail scandal remain, 54 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say Clinton has given satisfactory answers. Virginia voters say 51 – 46 percent a Congressional investigation into the e-mail scandal would be politically motivated.

The email scandal is more likely to hurt her as more voters are paying attention to the issue, but Clinton is likely to receive a favorable bounce after announcing her candidacy.

Some Democrats have been willing to ignore both Clinton’s ethical lapses and her conservative views due to the belief that she has the best chance to win the general election. Instead it is increasingly looking like Clinton might have a difficult time winning the 2016 election.

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Obama Approval Now Rises To Reagan-Levels As Economy Improves

president-obama-in-the-white-house

An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama’s approval reaching 50% on the eve of his State of the Union Address:

Obama’s overall approval rating now stands at 50 percent, the highest in a Post-ABC poll since the spring of 2013. His standing is nine points higher than in December and seven points higher than in October, just before Republicans captured control of the Senate, increased their House majority to its highest level in eight decades and recorded advances in the states.

The Post-ABC survey puts the president’s approval rating slightly higher than some other recent public polls. But most have shown improvement since the November elections as the president has moved aggressively and unilaterally on issues such as immigration and climate change.

A breakdown of the poll also shows greater support for Obama than for Republicans on the issues, which could be significant now that Obama will be facing a Republican-controlled Congress. These numbers put him well on course to exceed Ronald Reagan’s approval at this point in his presidency, which is quite an improvement after the many comparisons to George Bush’s approval ratings last year.

It is far too early to predict where his popularity will be at the time of the 2016 election. Nate Cohn, looking at his average improvement and not this specific poll, wrote on the political impact Obama’s popularity might have on the 2016 election:

There is a well-established relationship between the pace of economic growth and a president’s approval ratings, and Mr. Obama is clearly benefiting from signs of accelerating economic growth. For the first time since the start of the recession, more Americans believe the economic conditions are good or excellent than poor. Consumer confidence rose to an 11-year high last week, according to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index…

Only a handful of modern elections have not had an incumbent president on the ballot. In these contests, the president’s approval ratings are unsurprisingly less important than when a president is running for re-election. So Mr. Obama’s approval ratings will matter in 2016, but it is hard to say exactly how much.

The balance of evidence suggests that the break-even point for the presidential party’s odds of victory is at or nearly 50 percent approval. If the only thing you knew about the 2016 election was Mr. Obama’s approval rating on Election Day, you might guess that the Democrats had a 37 percent chance of holding the White House with a 46 percent rating — rather than a 23 percent chance with a 41 percent rating. The difference between 41 and 46 might be worth between one and two percentage points to the Democratic candidate in 2016 — the difference between a close race and a modest but clear Republican victory.

Mr. Obama’s surge among Hispanic voters might be particularly telling. It is a sign that Democratic-leaning voters dissatisfied with Mr. Obama’s performance might not be so disillusioned that they can’t be lured back to the Democrats by the issues and messages that brought them to the party in the first place. The president’s ratings among liberals and Democrats remain mediocre — perhaps only in the low 70s and low 80s, respectively — suggesting that there are additional, low-hanging opportunities for Mr. Obama and his party’s next nominee.

 

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