If you are reading this article, the chances are good that you follow politics, have a keen understanding of what’s happened over the course of the last eight years, and can articulate policy differences between Secretary Hillary Clinton and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump. You, unfortunately, are not representative of the average voter in America.
The average voter casts their votes for President in much the same way that they like posts on Facebook or share tweets on Twitter. I have been writing on Virginia blogs almost daily for two and half years. One of the most interesting trends I’ve noticed is that my articles get far more “shares” than views. This indicates that people (even people interested in politics) read a headline, assume the content of the story, and like it or share it without even clicking on the link.
More important than the fact that this annoys my ego, it tells me a great deal about the depth of people’s interest in the substance of what interests them.
When the economy is good and society is optimistic, a first term president has an excellent chance of reelection based on those two factors alone. When the economy is good and society is optimistic, the nominee of the party of a second term President is more likely to win. After all, why throw a political party out of power if things in the country are going along swimmingly?
Given the snails pace of the Obama Recovery, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the spread of terrorism across the world, and the tension between our two political parties – one might imagine that the Presidents’ approval ratings would be poor and in decline. This is not, however, what we are witnessing.
According to Gallup,
Notwithstanding the recent slippage, Obama’s approval rating has improved among all party groups since last fall, including one- to two-percentage-point increases among Democrats, independents and Republicans in the most recent quarter. Democrats’ approval is now at 87.7%, up from 82.8% last fall. Independents’ ratings are up by a similar amount, to 48.4%. Republicans’ ratings of Obama remain low, but now exceed 10%.
This is not indicative of a political party in decline. In fact, President Obama’s numbers have been steady or rising since the debt ceiling standoff in the last quarter of 2011. You will remember this period as the birth of the infamous Sequestration and the Budget Control Act which our current Congress finds so difficult to accommodate.
However, since that time, President Barack Obama’s numbers have risen from 40% to 50%.
The improvement in Obama’s job ratings since last fall is similar to the pattern seen in Ronald Reagan’s ratings in 1987 and 1988. In the late summer and early fall of 1987, an average of 47.0% of Americans approved of the job Reagan was doing as president. As the calendar turned to 1988, that improved to 50.0% and generally stayed there into the summer.
Improvement over the course of a president’s final year in office has not been the norm historically for two-term presidents.
As we know, President George H.W. Bush defeated then Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis in 1989.
President Obama’s approval rating indicates that the Democrat Nominee, Secretary Hillary Clinton, will not face a nation overwhelming frustrated by the last eight years. In other words, the majority of voters are not looking to punish the Democrat Party.
Furthermore, Democrats have not been in complete control of the United States Congress since 2010. If citizens are feeling pessimistic about America’s future, they may not assign a majority of the blame to the President. Republicans have controlled both houses of government since 2014.
One thing is certain, however. Americans do not believe that the United States is heading in the right direction. According to Rasmussen, 70% of Americans believe that the United States is heading in the wrong direction. In January of this year only 62% of Americans felt we were heading in the wrong direction. This eight point swing is likely the result of the recent terror attacks in Orlando, Florida and San Bernardino, California, as well as the racial tension between the African-American community and law enforcement, which led to the shooting death of five police officers in Dallas, Texas and three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
These numbers likely do not favor Secretary Clinton who has already sown up the African American vote and who is trying to reach out to white suburban families who are less sympathetic to violence and the disruption of traffic. The average middle class family, regardless of race, desire economic stability and security above all else.
If the American People are souring on Hillary Clinton, the polls certainly do not reflect it. NBC surveyed 12,931 Americans in an online poll (a method which is becoming increasingly reliable) and showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46% to 45%. The Real Clear Politics Average shows Hillary Clinton with a 55.6% unfavorable rating, edging out Donald Trump whose unfavorables remain at 57.1%.
While these numbers fail to favor Secretary Clinton or Donald Trump, it is clear that President Obama’s tenor as President will not play as large a role in 2016 as originally expected.