I had noticed that Rasmussen seemed to change their way they track presidential approvals once Obama took office.
Rasmussen had always had a variable approval rating system. They ask if you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of the President’s performance. On the surface that doesn’t seem to bad, but during Bush’s term they always combined both approval numbers and disapproval numbers and used that. I remember during Katrina people making a deal over Bush having a 46% approval from Rasmussen, but a vast majority of that number came from the “somewhat approve” category – something people trend more to state.
Now during Obama’s presidency they have changed it. Instead they take the different between strongly approve and strongly disapprove and that is their new “presidential index”. Let’s take today’s numbers:
Obama is given a –12 approval index. That sounds really bad, but if this was done under Bush’s term then Rasmussen would be saying Bush has a 48% approval rating. The later sounds much better.
Sure Obama’s numbers are in trouble right now, but that’s to be expected. People seem out to compare this to the same point in Bush’s presidency. Well at this point in Bush’s first term he was on vacation, something he did quiet a bit. It’s much safer for a President to not do anything, than one being active and trying to fix all the problems he was left with.
The most interesting part is the people on the right touting this as Obama being some kind of failure. Obama still has approval numbers that Bush would have killed for. According to Gallup, a much more trusted polling company, Obama is still at 56%. Bush didn’t see numbers like that since 2005. Perhaps the right should remember that fact. President Clinton also had a much lower approval rating at this point in his term, yet ended his presidency as one of the most popular presidents in history.
Obama is making tough choices right now and going through some hardcore battles on Capital Hill. If his approval rating didn’t drop then I would be shocked. Instead I have totally come to expect this, so perhaps people can relax before hyperventillating over Rasmussen and their crappy techniques. If you need a little more comfort then check out Eric Kleefeld’s post, where he has contacted some big pollsters and they all agree – Rasmussen’s system is crap.