Polling 101: Why Obama's Sagging Approval Is Tied to Gas Prices

(Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

First, the all-important lesson when it comes to polling: don't ever read too much into one poll. Instead, look at the trend.

Here are polls that have tracked President Obama's approval rating and were published between March 7 and March 11.







CBS News/NY Times

3/7 - 3/11

1009 A




ABC News/Wash Post

3/7 - 3/10

1003 A





3/9 - 3/11

1500 A




While the CBS/New York Times poll shows Obama with a markedly lower approval rating than ABC/Washington Post, the disapproval ratings are basically the same. Moreover, if you look at the spread, ABC /Washington Post and CBS/New York Times are basically showing the same thing: Obama is upside down in approval rating by anywhere from 4 to 6 points.

If anything, Gallup, which shows Obama at +6, looks more like the outlier.

The second lesson from recent polls is that gas prices impact lower-income people disproportionately.

That may sound like a "DUH," but this is also a likely explanation for Obama's drop in approval rating.

Take a look at the ABC/Washington Post cross-tabs for some interesting details.

Lower-income folks had highest disapproval/lowest approval for Obama than any other group.

Overall approval by income:

Under $50K: 44/52 (-8)

$50-$100K:  47/48 (-1)

Over $100K: 47/51 (-4)

That approval rating by income with tracks with who is hurt most by rising gas prices - those making less than $50,000

In the ABC / Washington Post poll we asked, "Have recent gas prices caused any financial hardship for you or your family? Has that been a serious hardship or not serious."

Serious Hardship

Total: 36%

Under $50K: 48%

$50-$100K: 24%