A new national poll finds Obama approval at 47 percent, about what other surveys have been measuring for the last few months. Many Republicans are conservative or religious, but only a third are both. And the GOP frontrunner for 2016 is a candidate named 'undecided.' This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
POST/ABC SEES 'SOFTENING' IN OBAMA APPROVAL - Dan Balz and Peyton Craighill: "President Obama’s approval rating has softened since registering a sharp upward spike early this year, but he has regained some of the ground lost to Republicans during and after their big victories in the 2014 midterm elections, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll...The president’s overall approval rating stands at 47 percent in the new survey, ticking down from 50 percent in January. Disapproval inched up 3 points to 47 percent, erasing a positive net margin. Those who strongly disapprove of his performance outnumber those who strongly approve by 10 points. The January finding represented a dramatic increase for the president, from a post-election low of 41 percent approval in December. Other surveys during the first weeks of the year also found increases, indicating a significant bounce back for a president whose party had just lost control of the Senate and suffered major losses elsewhere." [WashPost]
Compared to what? - Obama's approval rating in the January Post/ABC survey fell on the high side of the typical range of variation of other polls. Generally, most polls showed a modest increase in Obama's approval rating in January that has persisted. The HuffPost Pollster chart, which combines all available public polls, now estimates Obama's approval at 46.4 percent , nearly 4 percentage points higher than the low set in late October (42.6 percent). [Pollster Chart]
'Bright spot' on economy - More from Balz and Craighill: "One bright spot for the president is continued improvement in perceptions of his handling of the economy. [Obama's] economic approval rating today is 49 percent positive and 46 percent negative, the first time he has been in net positive territory since January 2013, just as he was about to be sworn in for his second term and was enjoying the glow of his reelection victory. The improvement in Obama’s standing on the economy tracks the mostly steady stream of better economic statistics over the past few months. Although overall impressions of the economy remain negative, with 59 percent saying it is 'not so good' or 'poor,' this is lower than 72 percent last fall and any previous point in Obama’s presidency." [WashPost]
ONLY A THIRD OF REPUBLICANS ARE HIGHLY RELIGIOUS AND CONSERVATIVE - Frank Newport: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz chose a conservative, evangelical Christian university as the setting for his announcement that he was running for president. This underscored his apparent strategic decision to focus relentlessly on the conservative highly, religious segment of his party...Exactly how big are these various segments of the Republican Party? We can provide estimates by looking at the cross between ideology and religiosity among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, based on interviews conducted with 17,845 Republicans as part of Gallup Daily tracking so far this year...Overall, 50% of Republicans are highly religious, above the national average of 40%, and 61% are conservative -- again, way above the national average of 35%. But not all highly religious Republicans are conservative and vice versa. In fact, the data show that a little more than one-third of Republicans can be classified as both conservative and highly religious. Thus, the pure segment of Republicans who meet both conservative and highly religious criteria is not the majority." [Gallup]
'UNDECIDED' LEADS 2016 - Natalie Jackson: "The real front-runner for the 2016 Republican New Hampshire primary has a surprising name: Undecided. That’s the key finding in a Suffolk University poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. The poll reports 24 percent undecided, but a closer look reveals that 55 percent were at first unable to name a candidate they would support. These results reveal less about voter preferences than they do about how much poll respondents know about potential Republican primary candidates: A majority of the potential Republican electorate in New Hampshire probably doesn’t think much about the primary yet.....Yes, some recent news reports have used polling to crown 'front-runners' in the Republican race, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and even neurosurgeon Ben Carson, as the leaders. But the reality is that most Republicans don’t know who they would support, and many aren’t even thinking about the race yet." [HuffPost]
AEI REPORT: 'ARE WE SAFER?' - Karlyn Bowman, writing for the conservative American Enterprise Institute: "Do Americans feel less threatened by terrorism now than they did when President Obama took office? The April issue of AEI’s Political Report compares public opinion on the George W. Bush and Obama administrations’ handling of terrorism, assesses how much terrorism concerns Americans, and assesses Americans’ opinions on how the United States should respond to the threat of ISIS...At a time when the federal government gets few positive marks, half or more of Americans say the government is doing very well or fairly well in reducing the threat of terrorism… When Gallup asked people about 15 issues in early 2014 and then again this year, worries about future terrorism at home had increased the most. Fifty-one percent told Gallup they worry a great deal about the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the United States, up 12 points from 2014. Defending the country from future terrorist attacks ranks highest among Americans’ priorities for President Obama and Congress this year in terms of those who say it should be a “top priority,” with 76 percent giving Pew pollsters that response in January... Since the fall, concerns about ISIS have risen, with only a small percentage saying the group is not a threat." [AEI]
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WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-By margins of 4-to-1 or higher, voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania prefer a negotiated settlement to reduce Iran's nuclear program rather than military intervention. [Quinnipiac]
-U.S. economic confidence remains steady in March. [Gallup]
-More women are working later into their pregnancy than ever before. [Pew]
-Among African Americans, support for gay marriage does not extend to requiring businesses to serve same-sex couples. 
-The U.S. Olympic committee denies a report it will drop Boston's Olympic bid if its tracking polls fail to show improved support. [Boston Globe]
-Mark Mellman (D) reviews statistically misleading claims in accounts of medical research. [The Hil]
-The New York Times maps shifts in voting for Rahm Emanuel from 2011 to 2015 by precinct. [NYT]