Obama Approval Hits One-Year Low in AP Poll


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Who Were the Likely Voters?

Those who turn out to vote may have different opinions than those who do not participate. Photo credit: Tom Arthur

When the AP conducted this survey in October, it broke many of the results down by the sample of U.S. adults, and a sub-sample of U.S. adults who stated they were likely to vote in 2012.  The most recent survey did not follow this protocol, and instead focused only on a sample of adults. When the October numbers were compared using the general sample versus the sub-sample, Obama’s approval rating was a point lower among likely voters, but individual questions about his handling of the economy, his foreign policy stance, health care reform and unemployement had higher presidential approval among likely voters. Questions relating to education, environmental policy, terrorism, and deficit reduction resulted in lower presidential approval among likely voters than the general sample.  

The AP did not provide reasons for not taking a sampling of likely voters during this, most recent survey, and it is also unknown whether the survey results would have been significantly different within the sub-sample. Since Obama polled with the lowest approval in the way he was handling the economy, but his October approval rating among likely voters was two points higher than that of the general sample, there is a chance his polling may have been slightly stronger in a poll consisting exclusively of voters. However, general questions regarding approval and favorability were previously lower among likely voters than general voters.

Interpreting the Poll Results

The AP’s methodology is consistent and closely follows good polling practices and the scientific method. When compared to aggregate data from RealClearPolitics, the presidential approval rating reported by AP, 44 percent, is close to the aggregate average of 44.9 percent. However, AP reported the largest spread between approval and disapproval, 10 points, while most other pollsters reported spreads ranging from one to seven points. Gallup also reported a 10 point spread, and Pew Research Center reported that Obama’s approval rating was three points higher than his disapproval, the first positive spread reported by any pollster since July, 2011.


Associated Press Polling. December 8-12Methodology. Accessed December 18, 2011.

RealClearPolitics. President Obama Job Approval. Accessed December 18, 2011.

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