Will Obama’s Numbers Bounce Back?

Richard Skinner scratches his chin:

Ultimately, Barack Obama’s approval rating just doesn’t move around that much.  It is striking, not for its lows, since most presidents have had periods in the 40s, but for its lack of highs.  He hasn’t experienced a rally, as was experienced by George W. Bush after 9/11 and George H. W. Bush during the Iraq War.  Nor has he presided over an economic boom, as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did in their second terms.  Obama’s job approval hasn’t exceeded 60 percent since April 2009, or 55 percent since that July.

What does this mean for 2016?  I’m not sure.

I think it could be challenging for a Democratic presidential candidate to win under these circumstances, especially since the party has already controlled the White House for two terms.  Could Obama’s job approval increase?  The wave of good economic news suggests that it could happen; presumably, at some point, Americans will start feeling the improvements in their own lives.  Perhaps the international scene will calm down as well.  Maybe his approval rating will rise into the mid-40s or even the high 40s.  But is it too late?  All things being equal, presidents tend to see their approval ratings fall as their administrations age.   And Obama’s approval rating has shown a certain imperturbability.  Much like attitudes toward his most distinctive accomplishment, the public’s views of Obama may be built more on the rock of partisanship and ideology than on the sands of events.

Jonathan Bernstein is more optimistic:

It isn’t a common path for two-term presidents to improve after the last midterm. Then again most didn’t have an opportunity to have their best economic performance be in the final two years of their second terms. One advantage for Obama and the Democrats: Just as voters in 2010 blamed Democrats for hard times that began under Bush, people could have short memories again if good times return.

A lot of analysts are diving into the demographic data to figure out exactly how much of an advantage, if any, Democrats have in presidential elections because of the growing diversity of the electorate. My guess? Events over the next two years, and how they change the way people feel about Barack Obama, will matter a lot more than anything else.