President Obama's approval rating has been dropping for some time now. For the most part, that's something that can get written off -- every president sees his numbers fall once he's in office for a little while, and in this case, the fall could largely be explained by the boost Obama got after being elected; his ratings were just returning to something like what they were last November. Plus, he was above 50 percent approval in just about every poll, with a few exceptions that could easily be explained away.
But now one reliable pollster, Quinnipiac, is out with a new survey that shows Obama's approval having fallen below that magic 50 percent number, to 48 percent. Meanwhile, in the same poll, 42 percent of respondents said they they disapprove of the job he's doing.
There is an important caveat to make here, though, one Quinnipiac itself made in its press release announcing the poll: Statistically speaking, the president's 48 percent approval rating is no different from the 50 percent rating he got when Quinnipiac last checked, back in October.
But as Peter Brown, Quinnipiac's assistant director, said in that release, "[I]n politics symbols matter, and this is not a good symbol for the White House." The poll's margin of error means the president's approval rating could be as high as 50 percent or as low as 46 percent. That won't matter as much as the one number, though, especially not when Obama's fellow Democrats see it and start worrying about how much political help he's really giving them.
This isn't the first poll to find Obama's approval below 50 percent, but the pollster who'd most notably gotten that result was Rasmussen, which has had numbers that tend to skew Republicans because of its choice to poll "likely" voters rather than all voters. Other recent surveys have had Obama at 56, 55 and 53 percent approval.