President Obama’s job approval rating has ticked back up modestly so far in September, as I discussed in some detail here. Last week, Sept. 6-12, our interviews with roughly 3,500 Americans showed Obama with a 46% average; the previous week he was at 45%. These ratings are not remarkable in and of themselves, but do represent an uptick from the 43% weekly ratings he got in mid to late August.
We also have been monitoring a very modest uptick in Democratic party identification so far in September.
August was a down month for Democrats, with Republicans moving to a tie on our leaned party identification measure, 42% to 42%. That was the culmination of a gradual loss of positioning on the part of the Democrats over the last year or two. In May of 2009, for example, Democrats had a 14-percentage-point advantage over Republicans. Of course, this was still during Obama's honeymoon period, when Obama’s job approval rating was at about 60%. Now, so far in September, the Democrats have regained a slight margin.
August of this year was the best month we have seen for Republicans on our generic ballot. The GOP enjoyed an overall six-point lead over Democrats among registered voters in August. That included three weekly averages with a 6-, 7-, and 10-point leads, all the largest in midterm elections in Gallup's history. The Democrats, however, have come back at least modestly from that hole as well.
All in all, there are nascent signs of a modest renaissance for the Democrats in September so far. This may partially reflect the fact that the president is back from vacation and as a result highly active in a public sense, the fact that Americans are tuning into politics after the summer season, some push back perhaps from the highly publicized Glenn Beck rally in Washington, D.C., Obama’s announcement of the end of combat operations in Iraq, or still other factors.
And, of course, we don’t know in which direction things are going to go from this point forward.
The news coverage of the so-called “Tea Party” victories in Tuesday’s primary voting could engender a reaction from the public. The reaction of the press is typified by such headlines as USA Today’s “Tea Party’s wins fuel a ‘civil war’ within GOP” and The Wall Street Journal’s “Primaries Stoke Turmoil”. Whether or not these alleged "civil wars" and "turmoil" will cause Americans to shift their views of the two political parties, the president, or their voting intentions in November remains to be seen. I would say all signs show we are in a time period where some fluidity in all of these measures is quite possible.
One last point. Support for the Tea Party has been very steady so far this year. We asked about the Tea Party four times from March through August, and in each survey between 28% to 31% of Americans said they were supporters. We are in the field this week with another update on the Tea Party, which will pick up the impact of Tuesday’s voting, if any.