One of the biggest questions coming into 2016 was whether President Obama's approval ratings would be a drag on Democrats. Well...
Gallup has Obama at 53-44 percent approval in its daily tracking—three points higher than when the polling company sent out a headline earlier this month stating his approval rating was at its "Highest Level Since May 2013." Yeah, we know... Gallup. But the trend holds in other recent polls.
Obama now rates just slightly better than Ronald Reagan did in March of 1988, just before Republicans took a third turn in the White House.
But the question is, what's at play? Though Obama has drawn some positive headlines lately—like looking very presidential during his Cuba trip—I would argue that his jump in popularity is inversely proportional to that of Republicans who have simply dominated 2016 headlines. In January, for instance, when people really started paying attention to the presidential race, they got a look at the GOP "dream team" and, guess what? Obama started looking pretty good.
In fact, Obama's bump corresponds nicely with the uptick in Trump's unfavorable ratings, which start to rise right around the beginning of February (his popularity just hit a new low). Same with Ted Cruz—his unfavorables shoot up around the beginning of the year while his favorable ratings begin plummeting around the end of January.
Meanwhile, Obama's main inflection point on Gallup—when his favorables go positive—comes in late February (25-27, to be exact).
Here's some other factors that jump out around that time: 1) While Congressional approval ratings have remained almost uniformly abysmal for a handful of years now, Independents' view of Congress began to absolutely tank at the beginning of February; 2) McConnell issued his No-SCOTUS-vote edict on Feb. 13; 3) by early March, PPP found that only 10 percent of voters approved of McConnell's job performance, while 59% disapproved; 4) Obama announced Merrick Garland on March 16 and by March 21, Gallup found 52 percent of Americans favor Senate confirmation, while 29 percent oppose.
So Obama's relative popularity might be as much about him as it is him vs. the Republican parade of idiocy. Whatever the case, we'll take it!