Sabato's Crystal Ball

Notes on the State of Politics

U.Va. Center for Politics February 23rd, 2012

Crystal Ball flashback: What fuels presidential approval?

With increasing gas prices again dominating the national news — stories about prices at the pump led network news broadcasts on Tuesday night — we wanted to remind readers of a piece we published last year about gas prices and their effect on presidential approval. Former Crystal Ball staffer Isaac Wood, now a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, took a look at the question and came to the following conclusion:

On the one hand, it is clearly true that high gas prices often coincide with lower presidential approval ratings. As political scientists have long demonstrated, these approval ratings are a strong indicator of a president’s reelection chances. As we have seen, though, gas prices alone certainly are not a perfect predictor of approval ratings or, indirectly, reelection. While continually rising gas prices would likely weaken Obama’s reelection standing, it would be just one of many factors voters consider when evaluating his first term.

To read the full article, click here.

– The Editors

Correction on presidents and their home states

Last week’s Crystal Ball contained an error about the number of presidents who won the presidency without winning their home state. In our research, we found only one: Woodrow Wilson, who in 1916 failed to win New Jersey, where he had been governor. However, after we posted our item about this bit of trivia last week, Matt Dawidowicz (@thematt523) pointed out that James K. Polk had lost his home state of Tennessee in his 1844 presidential victory. Henry Clay narrowly edged Polk by 0.1 percentage points. That was not the first time Volunteer State voters had rejected Polk — he lost gubernatorial races there in 1841 and 1843 before surprisingly capturing the presidency a year later. We thank Matt for his eagle eye, and we’ll be passing him some Center for Politics mementos for his help.

One more thing about the piece: A few readers noted that Richard Nixon was technically a New York resident when he won the presidency in 1968, and that he lost New York in that race to Hubert Humphrey. However, there is little question that he was viewed as a Californian by the public given that he had served as a representative and senator from the Golden State prior to becoming vice president. Moreover, he ran a losing campaign for governor in California in 1962, just two years after losing his 1960 presidential bid as a California resident. Because he made his political name as a Californian, we used some editorial license in determining his home state in 1968 and 1972.

– The Editors