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Posted by on Mar 25, 2009 in Economy, Guest Contributor, Politics | 2 comments

The Real Significance of The CBS Poll About Obama And AIG (Guest Voice)

The Real Significance of The CBS Poll About Obama And AIG

by Dheeraj Chand

A CBS News poll fielded over the weekend shows a surprising finding: while a majority of Americans disapprove of AIG handing out bonuses, believe that the government should do more to recover them and specifically give Obama low marks for handling this issue, there is no appreciable change in his overall job performance and there is an increase in overall confidence in his ability to handle the economy. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, has slightly lower numbers.

q1 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?
*** Party ID ***
Total Rep Dem Ind Mar09a
% % % % %
Approve 64 35 87 60 62
Disapprove 20 50 2 17 24
DK/NA 16 15 11 23 14

q2 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy?
Approve 61 29 84 59 56
Disapprove 29 59 9 29 33
DK/NA 10 12 7 12 11

q3 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?
Approve 30 22 43 23 30
Disapprove 56 72 40 62 56
DK/NA 14 6 17 15 14

q4 blank

q5 blank

q6 How much confidence do you have in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s ability to handle the nation’s financial crisis – a lot, some, not much, or none at all?

Weighted (227,354, 368)

Total Rep Dem Ind Mar09a
A lot 13 4 21 10
Some 41 31 48 41
Not much 20 31 12 21
None at all 15 28 6 15
DK/NA 11 6 13 13

The most striking feature of these data is the partisanship that they indicate: in each case, the respondents giving low marks to the subject of the question are the Republicans.

Democrats support Obama’s handling of the economy at 84%, Independents 59%. Democrats support Geithner at 69%, Independents at 51%. Republican respondents give Obama 45% and Geithner 34%.

While Independents remain the largest portion of the sample at 39% of the sample, they are strongly breaking in support of the administration. If one assumes that Democrats are likely to support Obama at high numbers, no matter the circumstances, and that Republicans are likely to oppose Obama at high numbers, no matter the circumstances, the view is still good for the administration. The total number of Democrats and Independents who approve of Obama’a handling of the economy is: (298 Dems) + (218 Independent) is 516, or 54%, without any Republicans. The total number of Republicans and Independents who disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy is (134 Reps) + ( Independent) is 241, or 25%, without any Democrats.

So, although Obama has low numbers amongst Republicans, if our hypothesis holds, these were voters he was never likely to retain anyway. The strong numbers amongst Independents, the two largest blocs surveyed show him to be in a good position. The increase in approval, while at the same time shedding Republican support, shows that Obama is holding the voters he was supposed to hold anyway and winning over the Independents. In other words, he is winning the argument. The AIG bonuses issue, while changing the news for a few days, did not drag down his numbers or his trending support.

There are two questions missing from this poll that I would have liked to have seen there to make the Congressional approval question more useful: the approval of Democrats in Congress and the approval of Republicans in Congress. Given the strong power of the minority to block action in the Congress, it’s impossible to read determine the roots of Congressional approval without seeing how voters are favour both Democras and Republicans.

The important takeaway from this poll is that while voters are angry about the AIG bonuses, and think that the government should try to recover the money, they are still confident in Obama and Geithner. The dropping Republican numbers are predictable, and given the small number of people identifying as Republicans, of now worry to Obama. After all, he’s winning and growing his share with Democrats and Independents.

Dheeraj Chand has worked in Democratic polling since 2007. Prior to that, he was a political journalist, Democratic field operative and a high school debate coach.