An examination of poll data over the past few months has shown that public opinion is more volatile than ever.
President Obama has seen a great deal of movement in his job approval ratings. In October of last year, polls consistently found that voters disapproved of his job performance by a seven-to-ten point margin. Gallup’s monthly average had Obama at 41% approve, 51% disapprove, and Rasmussen Reports’ monthly average had Obama at 44% approve, 54% disapprove. Fox News found his approval rating at 43% to 50%, and ABC News/Washington Post polling had it at 44% to 53%.
At the start of 2012, Obama’s ratings crept upward, and by early to mid-February, many polls saw his approval hit 50%, including polls by ABC News/Washington Post, CNN/Opinion Research, and CBS News/New York Times. Both Gallup and Rasmussen averaged a five-point increase in Obama’s ratings over this time period, which were generally attributed to an improving economy, a rise in employment, and a general increase in consumer confidence.
But recent polling has shown a decline in Obama’s ratings. The CBS News/New York Times poll shows Obama’s approval at 41% – a nine-point drop from last month – and ABC News found it at 46%, marking a four-point decrease.
However, two polls released this week show Obama’s job approval going up. Both Rasmussen Reports and Fox News have Obama’s approval at 47%. The Real Clear Politics Average currently has Obama’s job rating at 47% approve, 47% disapprove, reflecting the genuine divide in public opinion.
Just as inconsistent as Obama’s job approval ratings are his horserace matchups against the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. While Obama has generally held a slight lead over Romney in polling this year, two polls released this week found Romney ahead. ABC News/Washington Post showed Romney leading, 49% to 47%, and Rasmussen Reports had Romney at 47% and Obama at 45%. Meanwhile, two other polls released this week had Obama with over a ten-point lead – Reuters had Obama leading Romney by 52% to 41%, and Pew had him leading Romney, 54% to 42%.
There are even signs of volatility in a match-up between Obama and Rick Santorum. Although Obama has maintained a solid lead against Santorum in most polls, Rasmussen numbers released today found the two candidates in virtually a tie, with Obama at 46% and Santorum at 45%.
The great deal of movement in these numbers means that there is only one conclusion that can be drawn: the 2012 presidential election is still entirely up for grabs.
Such instability is a result of an unsure and uncertain electorate. The lead in the Republican nomination race has changed at least seven times since May in Gallup polling. Voters are dissatisfied and angry at the status quo, and thus their opinions are swayed frequently based on recent news developments.
Simply put, voters are fed up with our government and the bipartisan gridlock that prevents anything from getting done. They feel like Washington doesn’t work and our politicians are out of touch with ordinary Americans. By two to one, they feel like our country is headed on the wrong track rather than the right direction.