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Obama Approval Very Steady Across Gender, Race Subgroups

Obama Approval Very Steady Across Gender, Race Subgroups

Recent news stories have brought our attention back to the gender gap in American politics, with a recurring theme that the historic gender gap is narrowing. In recent days, the Boston Herald said "Gender gap closing among 2014 voters," The Wall Street Journal said "GOP Gains in Key Senate Races as Gender Gap Narrows," and USA Today said "Women not flocking to Democrats in key Senate races."

These conclusions are based on various indicators from selected Senate races, but it brings up again the issue I looked at in early September relating to gender and politics at the national level. I was responding to a Washington Post article claiming that President Barack Obama was losing support nationally among women, which -- as I pointed out -- he was not.

The recent spate of articles suggests it's a good time for an update of that analysis. I reported in September that Obama's job approval had been 2.9 percentage points higher than the national average for all the months of his presidency through August, and that there was little sign at that time that this was changing fundamentally. Well, September has come and gone and we are almost through with October, and here's what we find. Women were two points higher in presidential job approval than the national average in September, and are three points higher than the national average for presidential job approval in October for polling conducted Oct. 1-26, involving about 13,000 interviews. To be specific, so far in October, Obama's job approval among women has been 44%, while it has been 41% overall. In short, using Obama as a gauge, the current political gender gap at the national level is almost exactly what it has been since January 2009, with absolutely no sign of decline nationally to this point.

It's also worth noting that we find very little change in the support given to Obama among his strongest demographic subgroup: black Americans. Blacks' approval of Obama has averaged 40 points higher than the national average throughout the Obama administration so far, and for Oct. 1-26, black job approval has been 44 points higher than the national average (85% among blacks, 41% among everyone). In fact, if anything, the trend is for relatively higher support among blacks, with a gap of 42 to 44 percentage points for August through October.

Again, this doesn't rule out the possibility that there are changes in the gender gap, or the race gap, in the support of various Senate candidates in specific state races -- although with the relatively small sample sizes involved in most single-state polls, one must be very cautious in developing firm conclusions about subgroup trends.

Gallup trends on presidential approval are based on very large sample sizes derived from our ongoing Gallup Daily tracking. These large sample sizes enable us to dampen down the usual survey-to-survey fluctuation found in subgroup trending. These large sample size tracking analyses confirm that, for many groups, relative approval of Obama is very set in stone and not subject to much change at all over time. Women and blacks have such predictably higher levels of approval compared with the general population that they can be considered stable aspects of the underlying population with this president.

An exception to this stability, as I've noted here, comes among Hispanics, whose views of Obama are much more subject to fluctuation that are those of other groups. Hispanic support for the president fell in September to only five points above the national average, the lowest such gap of his administration. So far in October that gap has recovered a little to nine percentage points -- 50% support among Hispanics, compared with the 41% overall.


Frank Newport, Ph.D., is a Gallup Senior Scientist. He is the author of Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People and God Is Alive and Well. Twitter: @Frank_Newport

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