Polling Notes: Gas and Gingrich

By Gary Langer

Feb 23, 2012 12:56pm

Two polling notes, unrelated:

Gas…

President Obama’s decision to address energy policy on his trip to Florida today highlights the real risk rising gasoline prices pose to his re-election campaign. Customarily, when gas prices rise, consumer sentiment falls. And when the public is in an economic snit, the president takes the heat.

Interestingly, the effect is not a direct one. In polling last spring, when gas prices similarly soared, oil companies and oil exporting nations took the brunt of the blame, as usual; only about one in 10 Americans blamed the Obama administration directly. Regardless, the correlation between sharply rising gas prices and falling consumer sentiment is a strong one – as is the effect of economic discontent on presidential approval.

That said, consumer sentiment is not following its usual trajectory in the face of rising gas prices. Instead of falling, it’s been rising. The ongoing Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index this week hit its highest level in nearly four years. (Details here.) The apparent reason is that, even as they’ve risen, gas prices have been outweighed in consumer sentiment by other, improving indicators, including unemployment, housing starts and the stock market, among others. Whether such factors continue to shield Obama from the ill-effects of gas prices could well be one of the single strongest factors in the outcome of his re-election campaign.

.. and Gingrich

A further dig through Newt Gingrich’s sharp decline in basic popularity reveals an interesting result: It’s occurred almost entirely among Republican women.

Gingrich, as we reported yesterday, has just a 45 percent favorability rating in his own party, his worst this election cycle. That includes 54 percent among Republican men – but just 37 percent among Republican women. Favorable views of Gingrich have declined by 13 points among Republican men since their peak in late November – but by 28 points among GOP women from their peak a month later, including a 15-point drop in just the past month.

Gingrich has not seen such a striking drop in favorability among non-Republican women, possibly because they’ve been so skeptical of him to begin with – just 17 percent see him favorably, as do just 23 percent of non-Republican men, both little changed in the past month.

Our January favorability poll on the thrice-married Gingrich was in the field just at the time his ex-wife Marianne, in an interview on Nightline, said he’d proposed an “open marriage,” and called him unfit for office.

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