Chief Gallup pollster says Obama's popularity sturdy even in poor economy

Gallup Poll Editor in Chief Frank Newport said President Obama maintains his popularity through trying economic times better than the experience of his predecessors would dictate.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Frank Newport, Editor in Chief of The Gallup Poll, answers questions from reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC on July 19, 2011.

Polling expert Frank Newport is editor in chief of The Gallup Poll, a nonpartisan global polling organization. He is a past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. He was guest speaker at the July 19 Monitor Breakfast in Washington.

The president's approval ratings:

"Obama is better situated in the minds of the average American than either Republicans or Democrats in Congress." [His approval rating in July was 45 percent, congressional Democrats' was 33 percent, and Republicans' was 28 percent, Gallup reports.]

Obama's approval ratings and the weak economy:

"He is overperforming.... His approval rating now is higher than we would predict it to be [given that only] 16 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the US."

Why the approval rating for Obama hasn't fallen into the 30 percent range, as it did for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton when the economy was bad:

"One theory has to do with personal characteristics of the man. The other has to do with the nature of politics today, where he [has] kind of a rock-hard coalition that [is] never going to abandon him in approval ratings ... no matter what happens."

Whether the debate over raising the national debt ceiling will affect the 2012 election:

"I still don't see the debt issue as a major campaign theme, because in all of our [surveys] ... there is still relatively low mention of the debt and the deficit on the part of the American public. It's the economy and jobs which are the major issue."

On the Republican presidential field:

"Last week we asked ... Republicans, who do you support? And well over half supported nobody ... which gives us a pretty good indication it is pretty much of a wide-open field at this point."

The parties and religion:

"If you are a white American today and [say] ... 'I go to church every week' ... the probabilities are quite high that you are Republican. And if you ... are white and you say, 'No, I never go to religious services ... I don't have a religious identity,' the chances are much higher than predicted that you would be a Democrat."

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