Economic improvements usually help sitting presidents, but that hasn’t been the case for Barack Obama. Donald Trump's nomination will probably hurt the GOP's chances of taking the White House. And Democratic superdelegates are “the embodiment of the institutional Democratic Party.” This is HuffPollster for Friday, May 6, 2016.
OBAMA DOESN'T GET ENOUGH CREDIT FOR ECONOMY - John Sides: "[D]espite the prevailing narrative about 'voter anger,' consumer sentiment is actually quite favorable — comparable with what it was in 1983, when it seemed obvious that the incumbent party could run successfully on a record of economic growth. But here’s the problem for [President Barack] Obama: Unlike most recent presidents, this upward trend in consumer sentiment has not translated into higher approval ratings. [Below] is a graph that compares the relationship between consumer sentiment and presidential approval since the beginning of the consumer sentiment measure in 1960...For every president except Obama, the relationship is positive: As consumer sentiment becomes more positive, so does presidential approval. But in Obama’s case, the line is actually negative. If presidential approval were simply a function of consumer sentiment and nothing else, Obama should have been more popular — approximately 11 percentage points more popular….[P]artisan polarization helps explain why increasingly positive evaluations of the economy did not appear to improve Obama’s approval rating….But another reason is that, in an age of polarization, Americans may give little credit to a president not of their own party." [WashPost]
Obama’s ratings on the economy have been stagnant for a year - The president’s job approval for handling the economy has been negative for almost all of his presidency. His ratings did improve a bit in late 2014 and early 2015, but they have remained steady since. Currently, HuffPost Pollster’s average shows that about 48 percent of Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy, and almost 45 percent approve.
The president also isn’t getting credit for improving personal financial situations - Justin McCarthy: "Fifty percent of Americans rate their personal financial situation as either 'excellent' or 'good,' slightly higher than the 46% recorded last year and the highest level recorded since before the Great Recession….These ratings dropped during the recession, however, and remained low in the years that followed. In 2008, less than half described their situation positively, and a record-low 41% of Americans gave excellent or good ratings in 2010 and 2012. Americans' ratings began to improve in 2013….Currently, Americans are more likely to say their financial situation as a whole is 'getting better' (47%) than to say it is 'getting worse' (38%), the fifth consecutive year they have reported a net positive outlook." [Gallup]
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IF NOT FOR TRUMP, REPUBLICANS WOULD BE MORE COMPETITIVE - HuffPollster: "If Donald Trump weren’t actually the presumptive Republican nominee, the 2016 race would probably be shaping up to be pretty competitive….Predictions based on fundamentals carry the assumption that both candidates are on a relatively even footing... Yet while both the real estate mogul and Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton are historically unpopular, Trump is overwhelmingly so, with polls putting his unfavorability rating at an average 60 percent….Other measures of the race, including horserace polls and prediction markets, back up that sentiment….A recent George Washington University Battleground poll made it especially clear how the presidential race might be different if Trump weren’t involved.The survey split voters into two groups: Half were asked to pick which of the two parties they trusted most to handle a range of issues, while the other half were asked specifically about Clinton and Trump. Voters gave Republicans a substantial lead over Democrats on jobs, taxes and the economy, and a smaller edge on foreign policy. Adding Trump’s name to the mix immediately ceded that advantage." [HuffPost]
Trump and Clinton are the most unpopular candidates in modern history - Harry Enten: "Clinton’s average 'strongly unfavorable' rating in probability sample polls from late March to late April, 37 percent, is about 5 percentage points higher than the previous high between 1980 and 2012. Trump, though, is on another planet. Trump’s average 'strongly unfavorable' rating, 53 percent, is 20 percentage points higher than every candidate’s rating besides Clinton’s. Trump is less disliked than David Duke was when Duke ran for the presidency in 1992, but Duke never came close to winning the nomination….Part of the negativity voters feel toward Clinton and Trump probably has something to do with growing political polarization in our country. But polarization doesn’t explain everything. If Trump and Clinton’s strongly unfavorable ratings were simply a byproduct of polarized politics, you’d expect them to have high 'strongly favorable' ratings too. They don’t…No major party nominee before Clinton or Trump had a double-digit net negative 'strong favorability' rating. Clinton’s would be the lowest ever, except for Trump." 
LARGE NUMBER OF TRUMP SUPPORTERS BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES - Max Ehrenfreund: "Vague insinuations and sometimes puzzling claims from Donald Trump have become commonplace on television and in speeches. On Tuesday, for instance, he suggested to Fox News that his rival Ted Cruz's father might have helped President John F. Kennedy's assassin...Many of Trump's supporters are more likely to believe this kind of rhetoric, according to a poll out Wednesday that showed that large numbers of Trump's supporters believe in conspiracy theories...A large majority of Trump's coalition is suspicious of Obama's origins. Among respondents who chose Trump over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, 40 percent said it was 'definitely true' that 'President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life'...Trump's supporters are also more likely to say that vaccines cause autism, a claim he has made a few times during the campaign….Trump's supporters are even more likely to believe that the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., was staged to motivate public support for gun control." [WashPost]
WHO ARE THE DEMOCRATIC SUPERDELEGATES? - Drew DeSilver: "In short, they’re the embodiment of the institutional Democratic Party – everyone from former presidents, congressional leaders and big-money fundraisers to mayors, labor leaders and longtime local party functionaries. Nearly six-in-ten are men, close to two-thirds are white, and their average age (as best we could tell) is around 60. Superdelegates (not an official designation, by the way; their formal name is 'unpledged party leaders and elected officials') will account for just under 15% of all delegate votes at July’s Democratic National Convention" [Pew]
FRIDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Jonathan Bernstein argues that Donald Trump is following in George McGovern's path. [Bloomberg]
-An Electoral College map simulator lets you test out different scenarios. [WashPost]
-Reid Wilson argues the Democratic primary shows the party moving to the left. [Morning Consult]
-Sixty percent of Americans have a positive view of capitalism, unchanged from six years ago. [Gallup]
-Americans think the fight against ISIS is going better. [CNN]
-A study finds that Americans like to read long-form articles. [Pew]
-Gravis Marketing responds to criticism of their polls. [Gravis]