Glad it’s over?
2011 wasn’t a tremendous year for America’s leaders — the country continued to be frustrated with an economy stuck in the mud and a Congress that didn’t seem to be functioning (even by traditional Congressional standards). President Obama was no different. The sky high approval ratings that he maintained through the first few months of his term were always going to fall — that’s just political gravity. But after the fractious health care debate of 2009 and 2010, his approval rating started to reach pedestrian levels. It was the long path through 2011 that really brought him down (and finally back up). Check out the chart below.
The short-lived bump from the killing of Osama bin Laden was countered by a strong trend downward toward the politically poisonous summertime fight with Congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling. No one got out of that one unscathed — but, there was ample evidence that the GOP hobbled itself even more going into an election cycle when they were supposed to have the upper hand, with more voters blaming them for the sorry affair than Democrats.
After a debt agreement was done, Obama immediately made a successful pivot to jobs, and the public responded. Nothing in the jobs package Obama proposed came to fruition, but that was likely part of the political calculus — Republicans again said no, reinforcing the “do-nothing Congress” narrative after having just hurt themselves on the debt ceiling issue. They followed that up with a fairly clear legislative loss on the payroll tax extension, which similarly pitted Obama pushing a message to middle class voters concerned about the economy while House Speaker John Boehner squabbled with his own caucus.
Those factors led to an uptick over the last three months, just as the Republican presidential primary process began in earnest.
It’s certainly not the best postion an incumbent President has started from, and if the chart illustrates anything, it shows how quickly Americans are ready to punish officeholders. But so far he’s heading in the right direction at the right time.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.