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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%
Independents' vote preferences have shifted toward Obama
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."

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 High

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.

Now, those are snapshots, and not predictors.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 02:24:54 PM PDT

  •  On that Last Part.. The two-party.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Constitution just nominated Virgil Goode.. Dixie anyone?

    Libertarians (If Paul doesn't leave), will nominate Gary Johnson.. (Give Obama New Mexico now, and could get decent number in AZ)

    Americans Elect.. Well, Who knows..

    Greens, Jill Stein or Roseanne Barr.. In some 20+ point states for Obama could take 2-3..

    This year, third parties could be more important

  •  With ZERO percent GDP growth? (0+ / 0-)

    Winning 58% with zero growth?   Unless the model has actually seen Romney 2012's campaign, how could it come up with a blowout on zero growth?   Seems really implausible.

    Romney is campaigning to be President SuperBain; his cure is to cut wages, end pensions, let companies go bankrupt, and let the assets of production go dark or be sold to China. He really thinks thats the best of all possible Americas.

    by Inland on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 02:40:47 PM PDT

  •  How does this look for LIKELY voters? (0+ / 0-)

    In general, how do the registered voters change when you look at likely voters?

  •  Hm. I think things will actually worsen for mitt. (5+ / 0-)

    Once the election starts in earnest.


    The deluge of ads means people are basically going to tune that stuff out pretty early on. I predict that by July, ad messages will be largely irrelevant. I believe that this leaves only a few sources of information: media, Internet, debates, speeches. Oh, did I mention debates?

    Romney has not demonstrated proficiency in Internet, debate, or speeches. The media will be his most favorable venue but I believe that Romney is going to be pushed a bit more strongly to take definitive positions than he has been to date. There's a reason he hasnt done media interviews since mid march. He won't be able to skirt and etch a sketch forever. Also, media is not just news. It's show's like Stewart and Colbert and letterman. There are Internet inforgraphics and pesky facts. They'll be OWS. And the 99% movement. And the bully pulpit. And congressional dems to introduce bills. Itll be GOTV and poll watching that beats vote suppression and clothes-pin nosed gop voters. There'll be Romney's gaffes. And Bain. And the caymans account. And the October release of a tax return. Negative brooding ads are not going to win this election either way. I think for once, this election is going to be about some concrete issues because that's about all that's left after the tsunami of superpac ads that we'll all be ignoring by summer.

  •  Allen Lichman Who's never wrong picked Obama (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKSinSA, Larsstephens
  •  Also David Rosthchild picked Obama (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DemFromCT, MKSinSA, Larsstephens
  •  I just don't buy this kind (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Supavash, cacamp, camlbacker, Larsstephens

    of analysis:

    With a zero percent GDP growth, and a 48 percent approval rating, Obama's chances of winning the election are at 58.4 percent
    These are based on past elections, but there is no guarantee that the same factors are true now.  I think giving a percentage gives a false patina of scientificness to something that just is not, even if it uses statistical analaysis.    

    As for polls now, I suppose if the election were held today, they might shed some light, but add in the MoE and six more months of campaigning, and they cannot tell much.

    At best, we can say Obama is doing ok today.  If he had an approval rate below 30%, it might have predictive value, or an approval rate at 65%.  But where it is now just does not tell a lot.

    Our future must be lived.  We'll have a better idea in October.      

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 03:05:10 PM PDT

    •  don't disagree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP, Larsstephens

      as to the first part, i took pains to say they are snapshots only.

      as to the predictive part, we will see. The political scientists who put this together are some of the best in the country.

      Yes, they depend on N=16. But most elections follow the pattern.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 03:38:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree about approval rating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's the metric to watch.

    If you look at Gallup's weekly job approval rating, which smooths out the day to day volatility, the trend looks decent for Obama.

    He has had a net positive approval rating for the past 5 straight weeks, and has been net positive for 6 of the last 7.

    Before that period, he hadnt had a net positive weekly approval rating since June 2011.

  •  Wow, that's one hell of a bump Romney got from (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sancremonium dropping out.   If he gets a similar bump from the Convention, this could be over by August.

    Nate Silver's 60-40 "guess" at this point is looking better all the time.

    The Muslim said "I wished I had met Christ before I met the Christians" - Rev. Marvin Winins

    by captainlaser on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 06:04:24 PM PDT

  •  I think once (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Romney actually starts having to do real media and real campaign events and not staged speeches and we have a debate or two I think his numbers will go down.

    I can't wait until we have a town hall debate.

  •  Howard Fineman: "Even if Obama wins, he loses." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dlh77489, Larsstephens

    Just an example of the hackery to come.

  •  You know, I really, really like Ezra Klein. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    OMG, I just Googled him.  He's almost 40 years younger than I.  I could be his grandmother!!!  He'll be 28 on May 9th.  There must be something off in my arithmetic.  

    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

    by Observerinvancouver on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:57:32 AM PDT

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