A word about Obama polls

A WORD ABOUT OBAMA POLLS…. A couple of days ago, Pollster.com’s aggregate approval rating for President Obama slipped below 50% for the first time. Given the president’s up-until-recently strong support, and the challenges associated with a major White House policy push when the president’s numbers are moving in the wrong direction, the dip below the majority threshold raised a few eyebrows.

A few thoughts on this.

First, the Pollster.com aggregate includes some fairly dubious pollsters — “Zogby Internet,” for example, has Obama’s approval rating at 42% — all of which drag down the president’s overall average. As of this afternoon, the Pollster.com aggregate has Obama at 50.9% approval, 44.5% disapproval. If we filter out suspect Internet polls and Rasmussen, Obama shifts to 52.7% approval, 41% disapproval.

Second, it’s not as if Obama’s numbers are in free fall. Gallup’s daily tracking poll has the president’s numbers up five points — 50% to 55% — over the last week. McClatchy has Obama at 56% approval; CNN has him at 53%; and CBS has him at 56%. The recent media buzz has been about the president’s steep decline, but approval ratings in the mid-50s, in the midst of a weak economy, two wars, and blistering attacks on his signature domestic policy? That ain’t bad.

And third, it’s really not worth obsessing over these numbers anyway, at least not at this point. Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a new upswing for the president, or maybe his numbers will slide back down soon. Maybe there’s a short-term post-Kennedy bump; maybe the base is rallying behind Obama in the face of right-wing craziness; maybe a lot of things.

The bottom line is these minor fluctuations aren’t terribly important. I don’t want to be a hypocrite here; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep an eye on the numbers as they’re released. But there are going to be ups and downs, which aren’t nearly as significant as larger, broader trends.

If the goal is to see the president’s numbers rise, policymakers should pass health care reform. Success begets success.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.