Harry S Truman started with an 88% approval rating - okay, people were rooting for a VP who was suddenly thrust into the presidency. But even after his first election, he started with 70%, far more than the number of votes he got. Republicans were apparently willing to get behind the president and give him a shot.
Eisenhower started at 32%, suggesting that Democrats were not willing to get behind the president and give him a shot. Caveat: That 32% does seem to be something of an outlier.
JFK started with an approval rating of 73%, suggesting that Republicans were willing to get behind the new president and give him a shot.
Johnson started with an approval rating of 78% (and at his inauguration, 70%) suggesting that Republicans were willing to get behind the president and give him a shot.
Nixon started in 1969 at an approval rating of 60% - pretty good by modern standards but not much then, suggesting that Democrats were sorta willing to get behind the new president and give him a shot.
Gerald Ford started at 70%, which, even though that dropped off quickly, suggests that Democrats were quite ready to at least briefly get behind the new president and give him a shot. YAY! We will never know what his January 1977 numbers would have been had he been elected on his own.
Jimmy Carter began his presidency at 67% approval, suggesting... well, you know the drill.
Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 both started at 52%, just a few points above their margins of victory, suggesting that very few Democrats were willing to say "Oh, all right, he's the president and I support him." Both did rise in popularity fairly quickly, however, suggesting that this idea of "Americans get behind the president" was not completely dead.
1992 was a three-way race, which is obvious in the memory of those who were of voting age then, but seems to not be remembered much by those younger than that. Bill Clinton started with a 58% approval rating despite getting only 43% of the vote. That might be only the 18% of the country who voted for Perot which was getting behind him and giving him a chance. The Perot voters I knew don't fit that, but I recall that national numbers were different. Still, 58% is pretty good.
George W Bush also started with 58% - pretty good - which surprised me, but according to Gallup, there it is. I recall things being much more strident and divided, but that may be a function of where I live and who I read.
Barack Obama started his presidency at a 69% approval rating. This suggests...
I am sensing a trend here. At least some Republicans subscribe to the value that "He's the duly elected president, and he deserves a chance to prove himself," and have done so for 70 years. Very few Democrats have held that view for 50 years. So when Trump's low approval ratings are cited, it could be reframed as the Democrats falling to a new low, not Trump. And well, yeah, when it's that low it's clear that even some Republicans aren't subscribing to the old value either.
Trump may well have earned his low ratings. But again, I find it significant that there is no bounce after the inauguration. I have likely telegraphed my own prejudice on the matter. Trump is the duly elected president and deserves a shot at governing according to his own lights. There will be plenty of time to hate him later, there's no hurry. Disagreeing with him and opposing him are not illegal, certainly. Yet when I hear, decade after decade that it is the Republicans who are dividing this country, and keep putting up such divisive figures, I have to say that another interpretation of the data is possible.
At least the Dow-Jones soared. Which is a good sign.
I was looking at the demographics for the latest polls on immigration and free trade and they were under-polling Republicans by about 10 points and over-polling Democrats by about the same amount based on the 2016 polling numbers. So maybe Trump was in the 60% range but their deceptive polling methods are hiding it?
Boxty - I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for more accurate numbers. Nice for me to have my suspicions confirmed on that, though. It has been true for at least 20 years - still not fixed.
I always thought that Barack Obama's approval rating was far higher than another president's would be, because the right track / wrong track poll was consistently underwater. It just wasn't cool to admit you didn't approve of Obama in much of America.
The reverse is probably true here, too, to some degree. But I expect a lot of people really don't approve of Trump who nevertheless might approve of his policies. The question is whether those numbers converge over time -- they never did for Obama -- and if so, in which direction.
Flaws in this argument:
Ignoring the shift of Democrats to the Republican party that occurred during the civil rights era.
Only about 50+% of Americans actually vote. Job approval polls are based on the a sample of the general population, not just people who voted, so election outcomes are not precisely linked to that metric.
Reagan and Bush won in landslides. Many Democrats would have voted for them, so lower ratings couldn't be based on "I didn't vote for that guy."
The low Eisenhower rating immediately bounced to almost 70% according to the Pew graph.
Many presidents experience high approval rating during wars--again showing the metric is not simply about party affiliation. W at one point scored almost 90% after 9/11...as did HW during the Gulf War.
Why do I mention all this? Because it seems cherry-picked to reinforce an already pre-determined opinion that Democrats are just not as nice and agreeable as Republicans. Anyone is welcome to have that as an opinion. I object to an attempt to "science-if-y" that opinion with a bunch of numbers which represent much more complicated states than what they are being claimed to represent.
I had thought I was clear that I was talking only about the initial numbers of a president's tenure, but maybe that wasn't noted as strongly as I intended. Therefore new-war numbers weren't addressed, and that was not an oversight. Once a president is a few months into his first term, his "giving the guy a chance" numbers become confused with his "how's he doing numbers." Thus also, second term initial approval numbers were not even looked at.
Yes, I noted that Eisenhower's initial numbers were an outlier. Fair enough. Perhaps Democrats were giving him a chance 65 years ago but it didn't show up in the first poll for other reasons.
I don't consider 50.7% or 53.4% to be landslides. The rest of that criticism hinges on that.
I am trying to see the significance of the voter/non-voter criticism, because the data cut you suggest is correct - those are different populations. Yet I can't find any data that suggests that non-voters respond to approval/disapproval questions differently than voters. Nor can I think of a reason why they would be more likely or less likely than voters to approve, or that they would trend one way for Republicans and another for Democrats. Absent any information to the contrary, I'm going to assume they are roughly the same because that seems most likely, and thus don't affect my claim.
The shift from Democrat to Republican in the civil rights era might have some small effect, but consider: this was not a move in which 100% of the Democrats in Alabama became Republicans overnight. Small shifts can have big effects in elections, but they are still small shifts. To pick a state at random that changed, South Carolina was about 50-50 until 1964, when 7% of the electorate moved to Goldwater. Nixon did even better, but Carter carried the state in 1976 and almost did in 1980. I don't think it was the same 50% on each side over those 20 years, but the shift is still not a huge number of people. Most people don't change parties - shifts are often among younger people coming up. And that is in the region most known for switching in the way you describe. In terms of national numbers, the effect is likely to be slight. Unless the "give a guy a chance" people were almost a complete overlap with the switchers, the effect would be small.
And what effect there is would argue in support of my case, not against it, as the net result is higher numbers for Republicans.
If you are looking for a way to undermine the premise, something might be said in the way of "Republicans have more deference to authority, while Democrats are more likely to challenge it," which could be spun to either's advantage, depending on one's preference. I don't know that to be true, but it sounds plausible. It would mean that my data was correct, but my explanation was faulty. Could be.*
As for speculating on what my motives are, things actually worked the other way. I retained some "give the new guy a chance" sentiment carried over from childhood or fairness or whatever. Working and worshiping among Democrats in 1980 I was appalled at how they had no intention of giving Reagan a chance. I didn't like the guy either (I voted for Anderson), but I was shocked. It was part of my disillusionment, but I just figured I was naive and everyone did it. I didn't have an internet to look up polls then. So I was shocked in 1992 when Clinton, who I had heard my evangelical friends complain about endlessly, popped up at 60% (As I remembered it. It was actually a little less). So this was not a pre-determined opinion - though it is an older one for me and I have know about these numbers for years. It came up because some news sources are making a very big deal about how low Trump's approval numbers are. I didn't bring it up.
So I think my arguments are largely intact. I don't know what more complicated states remain that I am oversimplifying. I will note in closing that I find it unfair and insulting when people speculate about my motives.
*If that is, in fact, what is happening, that leads to understandings of political violence that might not reflect well on Democrats.
By complicated state, I mean that job approval/favorability ratings are not based on simply D/R voting. There is much that is attributable to what's happening in the country at the moment, the personality of the person, what happened in the run-up to the election, etc. Further, job approval and "let's give him a chance" aren't the same thing. Obama has had pretty good ratings, but how many Republicans have had an attitude of "let's give him a chance"? Maybe you run in different circles, but his 8 years was full of R's trying to delegitimize him and not "giving him a chance". The two don't seem to fully impact one another.
Still, arguing about the premise:
In 1980 Jon Anderson, a republican, ran as an independent and got almost 6 million votes. Reagan won by over 8 million, a pretty large pop. vote margin. We can assume that many of those 6 million would have voted for Reagan if Anderson hadn't run. Probably not all, but many. The point of this is that comparing margin of victory to approval rating doesn't show what you think it shows. There is more going on than simple R vs. D voting. And, your premise also ignores independent, swing voters.
Johnson's high approval ratings are also tied to a huge victory. He won by almost 16 million votes.
I think the move from D to R is larger than what you portray here. It wasn't just an Alabama thing. If you look at the charts here you will see that after 1968 the south turns red and only goes fully blue for Carter, a southerner, and some minor blue for Clinton, also with southern ties---but still mostly red. The switch was big. Before 1968 the south was almost always fully blue and D.
Nixon only won by 511,000 votes...but that was because of Wallace getting 9 million plus votes. The R's and D's were even. So, who do you think those Wallace voters would have supported if he hadn't run?
My point about Eisenhower is that the bounce is immediate, not tied to and up/down variation of events. It seems more like a weird blip or error.
Here's a link about non-voters: http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/10/29/the-party-of-nonvoters/
There is a lot of analysis that needs to be done to see if non-voters fall along the same lines as voters. That link seems to say not exactly, but it is also only a picture from one particular moment in time. It's hard to know how that works out historically.
Complicated. That's my point.
AVI, of course no one likes having people speculate about their motives.
It feels like that is exactly what is being done with the whole post. Your response even makes conjectures about Democrats and political violence and what it all says about them. How is that not speculation about motives? Maybe because it isn't personal speculation about an individual it doesn't seem as bad from your point of view. I don't know.
You say you were not approaching it from a pre-determined point of view. Maybe that's true. Is it possible that in weighing evidence you are more willing to give weight to ideas that conform to what you already suspect? I don't attribute malice to your motives. I do, however, see the whole endeavor as making a value judgement about people. At least that is where it ends up. It doesn't seem like simply a neutral explanation, or an interesting research question to explore.
People are complicated. I am a registered Republican. I have voted Republican and Democratic in local and national elections. Right now the R's do not represent me. Trump does not represent me...and that is not based on party. That is based on values that are important to me. Trump's rating are so low because he's already starting off negative in the popular vote, and he continues to say and do things to alienate large groups of people. It's not just Democrats that are unhappy. 80+% of R's are happy, most D's are not, and Independents are less that 50% and as low as 38% depending upon the poll.
He's not low just because of D's and D's unwillingness to support and "play nice."
For the first part, I will say it more forcefujlly and less politely this time. The entire post was about the approval ratings presidents started with, and I made that very clear. You have missed this. You misunderstood it. The original premise you think you are arguing with is not the one I wrote. Initial approval rating is absolutely tied to giving someone a chance. Whether Republicans have been giving Obama a chance for eight years was not discussed, because it isn't relevant. All Republicans did not give him an initial chance. Probably most didn't give him an initial chance. But more Republicans relent after an election and give approval than Democrats do, largely because the Democrats often give almost none. I have interpreted that as "giving a guy a chance" because I don't know what other explanation fits. Yes, I regard it as a positive thing for people to do. As the country does not switch to 100% approval at the outset of any presidency, a lot of people clearly don't agree with me on that. They think it is better to maintain their disapproval - I don't know their motives, though I could invent some ideas.
Yes that varies by circumstance. But it is largely in the same direction repeatedly, which is why it is a trend I think is important. That Trump's numbers are historically low is of course related to who he is. But it is being portrayed in the press as entirely a result of who he is. Because of the numbers I have cited here, I am showing that is not entirely true. Republicans usually start off lower because Democrats withhold approval more than they do. Commentators are putting their thumb on the scale here, and I am simply supplying evidence for that.
I didn't say that the switch from D to R was only an Alabama thing. I also spent a lot of space explaining that while the switch was dramatic in changing states in terms of what color we paint the state, it was not necessarily a large swing in terms of percentages in order to carry the state. Going from 40-60 to 60-40 is huge in state elections, but doesn't move the national dial on approval numbers very much because there just aren't enough people in that switch. It probably does affect them some. I don't think you are reading carefully here.
Estimates at the time said that Anderson voters would have broken about 4-1 for Carter. Carter believed he would have won without Anderson there. Not a landslide. Bush 1988. Not a landslide.
Eisenhower. Yes, that's what the word "outlier" means. Read more carefully.
Nixon. You imply that Wallace voters would have gone for Nixon. I don't see how you know that. He didn't carry those states eight years before, and his margins weren't large when he won in 1968.
Therefore calling things complicated doesn't answer. Yes, every election is different, and such things affect initial approval ratings. But if the trend is consistently in one direction, regardless of complications, it suggests there is a real difference there. You can't throw out every election as an example because you can find a complication.
Individuals are complicated, which is why I'm not talking about them here. The approval numbers don't capture things like "almost gave approval," or "very tentatively gave approval" or "no way in hell I'll ever give approval." As an aggregate, the difference isn't huge - it certainly isn't total - but it is clearly there, consistently for decades, through varying circumstances.
IF deference to authority is a difference between parties, GIVEN that violence by Democrats has been greater this election season, before and after, then I am not speculating on motives. The IF has not been establishe
It seems like we are talking past each other.
Nixon's election in 1968 is completely different than his election in 1960 before the civil rights movement, before desegregation, before the shift from D to R by many southerners. Wallace voters were not going to go for Humphrey, Johnson's vice president who was part of all the things they hated at the time. I don't think that is a controversial point.
Outlier. Yes. I know what the word means. Outliers usually get tossed. Anyway, it seems it's an outlier because according to Gallup, it wasn't 32%. According to Gallup it was 68%:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/113968/obama-initial-approval-ratings-historical-context.aspx (see the chart).
and here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/initial_approval.php
That undermines the argument. And, it kind of proves my point. So, it is not my reading/research skills that need to be addressed.
The assertion keeps being made that such and such happens repeatedly. The opinion and interpretation keep being touted as if they are correct...but I have pointed out several important avenues for further study that don't line up with those assertions, or that would need to be addressed before someone could confidently make those assertions.
They are dismissed as not being very important. If the general population is polled for approval and a large portion of them didn't vote and don't line up demographically /politically the same way as voters do, that immediately undermines the whole theory. Yet, that seems to make no headway as an argument. It is just waved away as probably not important.
That's not how research works. It's not how establishing causation works. It's not how interpreting data works. Numbers can't be thrown around with a dozen different variables, many of which haven't even been identified and looked at, and then be used to declare a unified theory of anything.
Well, it can be done...but it doesn't mean much and shouldn't be taken too seriously.
It isn't that your premise is framed as an opinion, or a conjecture, that I find troublesome. It is the repeated insistence that it is "true." I don't think you have proven anything "true." In order to do that you need significantly more and better data: approval data from those many past instances that is broken down by party/independents...approval data based on what non-voters' affiliation or lack of affiliation is.
All of that could be very interesting, but it hasn't been done.
Great gallup link. It would have saved me time. It also provides great evidence for my point.
I granted Eisenhower didn't fit the theory because the initial number was probably an outlier. How many times do you want me to say it?
Without going into reasons why, when Democrats take office they tend to have higher approval ratings than Republicans. The highest initial totals are Kennedy, Obama, Carter. The lowest numbers were Reagan, Bush, and now Trump. In between are Nixon, Clinton, and Bush 43. Because Johnson and Ford took over for other presidents they are missing from the Gallup list, but both had good numbers. Johnson were astronomically good. To jump ahead to the interpretation part just for a bit, that would support my idea that people do this because of some desire to "all get behind the new president," which people do in a crisis, and which would probably be even stronger in those situations.
That's not an opinion. Those are the numbers on the page. When a president takes office, more Republicans are willing to say they approve of the new Democratic president than Democrats are willing to say they approve of the new Republican president. Nonvoters might behave in some different way which would move the dial, but they would have to be very very different. If President A gets 51% of the vote but starts with a 66% approval rating, then either some of the people who voted against him now grant him approval, or a whole helluva lot of nonvoters - 81% - are offering their approval. Okay, maybe that's true. But if so, why would those non-voters do that significantly more often for Democrats? What explanation do you offer that would suggest they act anything like this way? Absent anything that shows they are are likely to be very, very different, and in an odd way, I'm going to stick with my assumption that they are roughly the same as voters.
Do you have any numbers suggesting that Wallace voters would otherwise have voted for a guy many of them had rejected 8 years before? I don't know of any. Therefore a speculation why it would be true if it were true isn't persuasive. You consider it uncontroversial because it fits a common story, and so therefore must be true. I consider it unproven. Worse, even if it were true that every man-jack of the Wallace voters had Nixon as their second choice, it would mean that absolutely zero Democrats and nonvoters nationwide voiced initial approval for Nixon, which would be even better evidence for my theory.
I am offering the interpretation that this means that this trend, which is not universal - I never said it was - but is unmistakable, has a meaning. I have said "This means more Republicans are willing to give a Democratic president some sort of affirmation at first. More of them bury the hatchet." I consider that a virtue. Maybe it's not a virtue, maybe it is something dire. If so, what? If you have another theory (I offered one about deferring to authority) why the two parties act differently, it might be better than mine. But they do act differently, if not since Eisenhower, then at least since Kennedy. Democrats enter with a 69% approval rating, the exception being Clinton. Republicans enter with a 53% approval rating, the exception being Eisenhower. That is a big difference.
Nixon's election in 1968 is completely different than his election in 1960 before the civil rights movement, before desegregation, before the shift from D to R by many southerners.
Yes, the 1968 election is quite different from the 1960 election, primarily because George Wallace ran as a third-party candidate in 1968. Regarding your claim that the 1960 election is different from the 1968 because the 1960 election was before the shift from D to R by many southerners, the data says otherwise.
Republicans became competitive in the South on the Presidential level with the 1952 election of Eisenhower. Granted, it took decades before Republicans were competitive at the local level, but the shift from D to R at the Presidential level began before the civil rights movement kicked into gear- which I will arbitrarily define as 1954, the year that Brown vs. Board of Education was decided.
Republican Share of Presidential Vote in the South
Note that Eisenhower in 1956 got a higher percentage of the South's vote than Goldwater did in 1964. So much for the claim that Goldwater's vote against the Civil Rights Bill turned the South Republican.
Wallace got 34.3% of the Southern vote in 1968. Nixon got 34.6% of the Southern vote in 1968, which was 14.1% lower than what Goldwater got in 1964. Humphrey got 30.9% of the Southern vote in 1968, which was 18.6% less than what LBJ got in 1964.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1968 ditto for other years.
Worth reading: Clarremont Institute: The Myth of the Racist Republicans.
I defined the South as the 11 states of the former Confederacy.
This seems like a pretty big difference in non-voters:
“Reflecting their low levels of political engagement, only about half of nonvoters (47%) identify with either political party; 29% identify as Democrats, 18% as Republicans while 45% are independents. Among likely voters, 68% identify with a party (37% Democrat, 31% Republican) and just 30% are independents.”
A pretty even split for registered voters, but not all registered voters always vote and many wind up choosing a party because they have to in order to participate in primary voting locally and nationally:
“Overall, 48% of all registered voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic compared with 44% who identify as Republican or lean toward the GOP. “
So here are some interesting numbers to consider. Below is a breakdown of party identification during the presidential elections of the presidents you have mentioned in their election years. After each, I have listed the approval rating and mentioned whether the opposing party had to give support in order to reach it.
1964--Johnson: D:52%, I:23%, R:25%--approval rating about 70-75% in 1964—no R’s needed for that
-won 61% of vote
Your list of highest Democrats:
1960--Kennedy: D:46%, I:23%, R:29%—72% approval—needs Ind. and at least some Rs to reach rating
-won 49.7% of vote
2008--Obama: D:36%, I:32%, R:25%—68% approval—didn’t need Rs to reach that approval rating
-won 52.9% of vote
1976--Carter: D: 46%, I:29%, R:22%—66% approval—didn’t need R’s to reach that approval rating
-won 50.1% of vote
Your list of lowest, not including Trump (I think he is a special case):
1980--Reagan: D:45%, I:29%, R:23%—51% approval—didn’t need D’s to get approval rating
-won 50.7% of vote
1988--HWBush: D:35%, I:31%, R:30%—51% approval—didn’t need D’s to get approval rating
-won 53.4% of vote (interesting that his approval was less than what he won)
The in-between/middle of the pack:
1968--Nixon: D:42%, I:28%, R:27%—59% approval—had to get at least some D’s for approval rating
-won 43.4% of vote
1992--Clinton: D:33%, I:36%, R:28%—58% approval—didn’t need R’s to get approval rating
-won 43% of vote
2000--WBush: D:33%, I:30%, R:28%—57% approval—needed most I’s and miniscule amount of D’s
-won 47.9% of vote
Stats are from-- http://www.people-press.org/interactives/party-id-trend/
Looking at this, the only presidents who needed support from the opposite side were Kennedy by 3% Rs, Nixon by 4% Ds, and WBush by 1% Ds. I could make an argument from these that neither party lends support very often to the other party. It’s the self-identified Independents who choose whether or not to get behind a president. Why they do sometimes in great numbers and not in others is up for debate and probably depends on what is happening in that particular election. If anything, I could say that D’s got behind Nixon and Bush, and Kennedy was the only Democratic president who might have gotten R support. Which would be the exact opposite of your premise.
Now, would I swear to that interpretation? No, because who knows what D’s, R’s, and I’s actually did. We don’t have the actual data to conclusively state anything. If we were going to make a conjecture based on the numbers, it wouldn’t support the claim you first made.
I started out annoyed with this whole conversation, but looking all this up has been a fun exercise.
You are right about Nixon voters and how that would bolster your case, except it isn't exactly borne out by the numbers above.
True party faithful tend to stay faithful. What say you? Does seeing those numbers change your mind about anything?
Made a mistake a on WBush..didn't need D's.
To reach those high numbers, the Democrat in each case would need approval from all the independent voters to reach those heights. That's not at all likely. The difference in average is very large, remember, and is a high bar to get over. However, the idea that most of the ground was covered by Independents, with only a few Republicans burying the hatchet and getting behind the president seems reasonable. So it may be that very few actual regular Republicans, say around 10%, actually give a new Democratic president a break, maybe about half of the 20% that I was concluding originally.
To reach their low numbers, the Republicans wouldn't need any support from Democrats, which is where I started. So we have established pretty firmly that regular party Democrats essentially don't bury the hatchet, except in crisis. Again, "burying the hatchet," or "giving a guy a chance" may not be the correct interpretation of motive. "Sticking to principle," or "not slavishly following authority" are also possible explanations for the behavior of Democrats, though I think those are not the best explanations, for reasons that have been touched on but not fully explored.
You are offering the very interesting premise that it could be the Independents and non-voters who represent the lion's share of offering approval for a guy they didn't vote for. That seems intuitively likely. I have been counting those who voted for a party's candidate as "party members" in the days after the election, and you are right, it isn't the same thing. Independents are only temporary Republicans or Democrats and may not be similar to regular party members in important ways. We don't know that, but it certainly seems possible.
That still leaves unexplained why Independents and non-voters would do that for Democrats much more often than they do Republicans. Or if they don't, then we are back to my original premise that it is some Republicans who are relenting after the election. Even draining off some of the strength of my argument into Independents, it doesn't go away.
Or more confusingly, why do Independents, when they vote for Democrats, not relent and give approval to the Republican victor at quite the same rate they do when the situation is reversed. )If that were known to be the case, I have a possible explanation related to whether Independents are voting for a candidate or against the other candidate, and what causes that. This last election likely not a good example, but it does provide an excellent case of a large percentage of against votes on both sides.)
Well, it is way more complicated in any case. To defend either your perspective, or my perspective requires some more examination. Maybe I will spend more time on it later. Trying to pick out who makes up Independents led me down an entirely different, but interesting, rabbit hole.
A mischievous possibility occurs to me:
This means more Republicans are willing to give a Democratic president some sort of affirmation at first. More of them bury the hatchet.
You note that the approval rating generally improves in times of crisis, indicating that Americans want to unite at such times, and express this by increasing their approval of whoever is president. (For example, George W. Bush's ratings skyrocketed right after the 9/11 attacks.)
So... what if Republicans regard the election of a Democrat as a crisis, and react by uniting, thus giving the president higher approval ratings than they would based on performance and policies? While Democrats don't regard the election of a Republican as a crisis, and therefore don't experience the impulse to unity?
(I am, however, not at all sure this can be reconciled with the reaction to Trump's election.)
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