As Barbara Morrill noted on Monday, the volatile Gallup trackers for presidential job approval horse race numbers can be up one day and down the next. However, a recent trio of polling points help set the narrative that Obama remains a slight favorite in an otherwise close race.
° Job approval:
Obama Now at 50% Job Approval; Leads Romney, 49% to 42%The job approval number helps establish how an incumbent will perform in standing for reelection. It's more important than gas prices, and more important than whatever nonscandal du jour the RNC can persuade newspapers to cover. For Gallup, "the 50% approval mark is notable because all incumbent presidents since Eisenhower who were at or above 50% approval at the time of the election were re-elected."
Independents' vote preferences have shifted toward Obama
It's not the time of the election, of course, but we're talking about standing now and not predicting winning in November (more on that later).
° Gallup's job approval is also driving these numbers:
Obama's increased approval coincides with his taking a lead, 49% to 42%, over Mitt Romney in Gallup Daily tracking of registered voters' 2012 presidential election preferences. That marks a shift from last week, when Romney held an edge in Gallup tracking.Now, this volatile number has been all over the place. In fact, in just five days there has been a 12 point swing (compared to April 18, Romney is down 6 and Obama is up 6).
While Gallup speculates that it might be gas prices, the general attitude towards the economy matters more.
° In fact, that's Gallup's third data point:
U.S. Weekly Economic Confidence Steady Near Four-Year HighNow, those are snapshots, and not predictors.
U.S. economic confidence in the week ending April 22 is unchanged from the prior week at -19, but remains up from -23 two weeks ago, and within two points of the high of the past four years.
But not to worry ... we have one of those for you, thanks to Ezra Klein and a trio of political scientists:
Predict the 2012 election with our interactive tool!With a zero percent GDP growth, and a 48 percent approval rating, Obama's chances of winning the election are at 58.4 percent, not far from Intrade's 59.8.
So I asked three political scientists — Seth Hill of Yale, John Sides of GeorgWashington University and Lynn Vavreck of UCLA — to help me create an election forecasting model. And when I say “help me,” I mean that they did all the work and then sat me down and explained, slowly and using small words, what they had done.
The final model uses just three pieces of information that have been found to be particularly predictive: economic growth in the year of the election, as measured by the change in gross domestic product during the first three quarters; the president’s approval rating in June; and whether one of the candidates is the incumbent.
That may seem a bit thin. But it calls 12 of the past 16 elections right. The average error in its prediction of the two-party vote share is less than three percentage points.
Make those numbers better for Obama, and his lead grows.
That's just another variation of "it's not gas prices, and it's not the scandal du jour." The fundamentals that matter are GDP and presidential approval.
It's early, and all of the above will be more predictive in April and (especially) September than now. Taken together, they support the contention that in a close race, Obama is still the slim favorite.