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The Rebound In Obama’s Approval Is Real

“How Obama Got His Groove Back” may be coming soon to a theater near you. Numerous polls have found Obama’s job approval rating creeping higher in the past month. But how real is this rise?

It’s real … and small.

In sparse polling environments, the best way to look at approval ratings is to use a smoothing technique like a local regression. Fortunately, there have been six pollsters who have conducted a survey in the past four weeks and in the four-week period before that. This gives us a nice “before and after” for each pollster. (For the weekly trackers, I took the average of polls taken over the past four weeks and compared it to the average in the prior four-week period.)

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Among the six pollsters studied, the average jump in Obama’s approval rating is 2.1 percentage points. The pollsters who take the public’s temperature on the president daily or weekly see his approval rating climbing by about 2 percentage points over the past month. The rise is nearly universal. The lone exception is Fox News, which found no change.

So, Obama is more popular. His approval rating is probably in the mid-40s, compared to the low 40s a month ago. If increased economic optimism is driving his approval rating higher, then we should expect it to keep rising as long as the economy keeps humming along. Yet, as I’ve pointed out before, the relationship between views on the economy and Obama’s popularity aren’t clear cut.

Finally, one thing to watch for: The approval rating at which an incumbent president running for re-election goes from an underdog to a favorite is in the high 40s. Obama can’t run again, and the relationship between his approval rating and the eventual 2016 Democratic nominee’s chances is a bit messier. But if Obama’s popularity inches up a bit more, he may go from being a drag on the nominee to an asset.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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