Lately the conservative side of the wonkisphere has been all a-twitter (literally).
Note: I'm not sure if anyone else has used the term 'wonkisphere' yet but if not I will use it to describe those of us who look forward to the release of every new poll the way a loyal fan of Star Trek waits for the newest Priceline.com commercial just to see something new, and read political tea leaves the way an archeologist reads pottery shards.
They are feeling blessed with new life since this week the Realclearpolitics Presidential approval poll average dipped below 60%. Right now it registers at 59.6% (that's right, whole numbers just are so pedestrian for us denizens of the wonkisphere.) The RCP average is an average of several of the most recent polls taken on approval of the President.
Now, I'm not sure exactly what 60% is supposed to mean. To me it's just a number. But when a President is above that number he is perceived to be a Goliath, perhaps vulnerable to a single well placed stone but otherwise crushing any who dare to get in his way. Below 60%, all of a sudden the armor comes off and out steps a mere mortal. That's when the other side doesn't just sling an occasional 'test-stone,' to try and find the chink in the armor, but out come the rhetorical darts and arrows and the poisoned pens for a full out frontal assault.
A closer examination of the polls that are currently being used by the average suggests that they should go ahead and sheathe the darts and quiver the arrows and cap the pens. The seven polls in the current incarnation of the RCP average are the Gallup tracking poll, the Rasmussen tracking poll, and polls from Marist, Associated Press/GfK, Quinnipiac, USA Today/Gallup and Democracy Corps, which states up front that it is a Democratic polling firm (interestingly enough though Democracy Corps has often given Obama approval numbers below the RCP average.)
Of these polls, Marist actually shows that Obama actually went up a point from the last time they were polled. They showed he had approval of 55% on April 21-23 and this month that has gone up to 56%. Democracy Corps, the last time they polled (May 10-12) had Obama with an approval rating of 58% and it is now up to 59%. Quinnipiac shows the reverse numbers, with Obama falling from 59% on April 21-27 to 58% now. Obama's best marks come from the AP poll, at 64% approval, and that is also the same number where they had him on April 16-20. The only even marginally significant decline among the five standard polls is in the USA Today/Gallup poll. They have him at 61% today and his approval was 64% when they polled it at the end of March.
As for the tracking polls, it is true that Gallup (the same organization that showed Obama with a slight decline when they polled with USA Today) shows Obama's approval slowly going down. Or does it? It appears so, but then if you look back a little further, the 60% today is higher than it was near the end of March or beginning of April.
Rasmussen tracking has Presidential approval at 58%. However, Rassmussen has not showed it at 60% since March 4. So in fact 58% is good with this outfit.
Excluded from this average because their last polls are too old are several organizations that in the past have showed Obama with high marks for approval. These include CBS News, Pew Research, Ipsos/McClatchey, Fox News (!), CNN/Opinion Research, ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times(not the same as CBS News) and NBC/Wall St. Journal.
So it appears that this result is more a factor of the specific pollsters used this go around (and their differences in polling methods) than it is a function of any underlying trend.
Barack Obama has been remarkably steady around 60% for at least the past two months, and I believe this trend will continue.
Don't worry, Goliath is alive and well, which should make the right happy because they can go back to slinging stones.