Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Harper vs Obama

Recently columnist Norman Spector asserted that a year after the 2008 elections Harper is more popular than Obama. One finds echoes of this in other columns as well.

Here is Spector on November 16:

Yet today, Mr. Harper is flirting with a majority. Canadians have grown increasingly comfortable with him, as judged by his approval ratings. And the Conservatives just won two of four by-elections, including a surprise victory in Quebec – where conventional wisdom had them dead, if not completely buried.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has suffered the steepest decline of the 12 elected presidents since Gallup began polling.
Minor details: the last poll on the subject (in October by Angus Reid) found that Canadians disapproved of Mr. Harper by a margin of 45-34, while the aggregate of all U.S. polls currently find that, by a margin of 48.4% to 46.5%, more Americans approve of Mr. Obama as President than disapprove. Overall, as of today, a majority of 54.4% to 39.1% have a favourable view of Mr. Obama.

Of course Mr. Obama inherited an economy going over a cliff that has just barely begun to reverse course, while Canada has benefited from higher global commodity prices, the product of economic strength reasserting itself in Asia and elsewhere.

As Brendan Nyhan noted in August:
The approval ratings of presidents tend to decline over time... And in Obama's case, he faces a poor economy that will push his approval numbers into the 40s very soon.
Despite a more favourable economic environment due to better luck, Harper is not doing as well as Obama. Of course Mr. Spector cherry picked just the Gallup Poll. Nonetheless, Obama has fallen and will likely fall further, but Mr. Spector's comparison is, to say the least, deeply misleading.

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