It could be gas prices, the budget debate, or simply the usual ups and downs of public opinion polling. But President Obama's approval rating has dipped to a five-month low in Gallup's daily tracking poll, reverting to post-midterm election lows.
The survey, a three-day rolling average conducted April 11-13, pegs Obama's approval at 42%, the lowest since Nov. 10-12. For only the 13th time in his term and the first time since late October, his disapproval rating has reached 50%.
Since the self-described "shellacking" of his party last November, Obama's numbers have zig-zagged within a 9-point range, from the low of 42% to a high of 51%. He enjoyed a sustained upward trend after the tax cuts compromise in December's lame duck session of Congress.
Any boost he may have gained from last Friday's 11th hour compromise may be offset by other economic concerns, particularly higher fuel prices.
The White House routinely dismisses polling data. But it's a troublesome footnote as the president kicks off his re-election effort Thursday.
Obama's low approval rating is not the result of the major speech he delivered on Wednesday. Some of the polling took place before he delivered the speech. Rather, a Gallup official believes the results reflect broad public dissatisfaction with the economy.
"You can never discount the economy as a reason," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. "It's important to remember that Americans are down on the economy right now. We saw some glimmers of uptick, but that's faded. And there's no way that can't help but rub off" on the president.
The new numbers suggest that gains Obama had recorded after the productive lame duck session of Congress last December have been wiped out. Obama's approval rating registered at 50% by the end of the lame duck session, where Obama reached rare compromises with Republicans on taxes and other major legislation.
"There's a lot going on in the political environment right now, including the (budget) agreement reached last Friday and the wrangling this week over his speech," Newport said. "The economy is perceived as bad, economic confidence data is bad, gas prices are up – so there are a number of proximate causes" for the downturn.