Regressing Toward the Mean

As measured by Rasmussen Reports, President Obama’s approval rating has been at 56 percent for the last three days. His “approval index”–the difference between those who strongly approve of his performance and those who strongly disapprove– now stands at + 6, the lowest level so far:

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Such poll data a mere six weeks into an administration might normally be deemed irrelevant, and so they may prove to be: they probably tell us very little about what Obama’s standing with the public will be by 2012. In the present moment, though, I think they do have significance.

The Democrats are trying to follow a “100 days” strategy reminiscent of Roosevelt, in which they will enact a far-reaching transformation of the American economy at the outset of the Obama administration. This approach is based in part on the calculation that Obama’s personal popularity and the reluctance of many to attack him (consider the kerfuffle over the New York Post cartoon about the stimulus bill) will help them to ram through Congress a program that contains radical elements that are not supported by the American people. The evidence suggests, however, that Obama does not have such a powerful influence with voters, and that Republicans should not hesitate to do their utmost to block the Democrats’ ambitions or to criticize Obama where appropriate.

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