Friday, January 29, 2010


Obama’s job approval rating declines, but why?

by Larry Geller

Nate Silver posts a long and thoughtful analysis of the decline in President Obama’s approval ratings this morning over at, What Killed Obama's Approval Numbers? (1/29/2010). I am frequently in awe of this well-respected site.

While the analysis didn’t come to a firm conclusion, it did demonstrate some things along the way. For example, this chart, plotting Obama’s job approval rating against the days that were dominated by healthcare reform headlines (red bars), shows that the issue probably wasn’t responsible for that part of the trajectory of the decline.

Silver considers also the Sotomayor appointment, the situation in Iran, and even Sarah Palin’s quitting her job in Alaska.

Maybe it’s just too early to pin it down with data.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to give you any one incredibly satisfying answer here. The most basic reason for the decline in Obama's numbers, almost certainly, is that people's expectations for what he ought to have been able to accomplish on the economy have accelerated faster than his ability to do so. But beyond that, things are a little murky. The periods that represent the steepest declines in Obama's approval ratings are only loosely related to the periods that provided the most disappointing economic news.

While I might speculate on the meaning behind the news, it is good to have a more conservative, data-based analysis as an anchor. That keeps me going back to this website.

What I like about this site is that it attempts to locate the numbers that support a conclusion. Even Silver’s tweets are data-rich. For example:

Note that "only" 47 Democrats voted for Bernanke. He needed GOP votes to get him over the finish line.

or this one analyzing word usage in State of the Union tweets:

Most common nontrivial words in #sotu: american[s](46), people (33), america (24), jobs (23), work (20), families (17), businesses (17)

As a Tablet PC fan disappointed in the iPad announcement, I was interested to find, in this observation, that I’m not alone:

Interesting: Apple stock (#AAPL) dropped more than 4% today as investors evidently had second thoughts about the iPad.

So is not just dry data and analysis. Try visit.

Totally unrelated to the above, I repeated a suggestion that flashed by in someone’s tweet and fed Obama’s speech into the tag cloud generator Wordle. Here’s the result (click for larger):

Obama sotu Tag Cloud

So that's what’s on his speechwriters’ minds anyway. It would be interesting to somehow feed Wordle with letters to the editor and see if there is a match with the people’s concerns.

Just an idle diversion.


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