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The Vanishing President? Obama Public Appearances Down 30 Percent in 2010

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Study of more than 600 verbal statements finds the President's appearances have dropped from 45 per month in 2009 to 32 in 2010; sustained decline occurred after Gallup job approval rating first scored Obama below the 50 percent mark in mid-November

Has Barack Obama adopted a new political strategy in recent months to help effectuate his policy goals while muddling through mediocre job approval ratings?

In the first of a series of reports in a study of more than 600 verbal statements Obama has delivered since Inauguration Day, Smart Politics finds the frequency of the President's public appearances has declined 30 percent in 2010 compared to his first year in office.

In 2009, Obama made 528 public appearances in which he delivered verbal remarks, scripted or otherwise, or 1.53 such appearances per day he was in office. Thus far through 2010, however, the President has made only 86 such appearances, or 1.08 per day - a decline of 29.4 percent.

That translates to a drop from approximately 45 verbal statements per month in 2009 to just 32 per month in 2010.

Obama's vanishing act from the public and press was highlighted this week when he failed to make any remarks before or after his reportedly 'difficult' meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama has previously shielded himself from the public when things got a little bumpy.

For example, the President has seemingly abandoned the prime time press conference format ever since his controversial July 22, 2009 news conference when he stated the Cambridge, Massachusetts police acted "stupidly" in their arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Last month, Smart Politics reported how Obama had held the fourth fewest solo press conferences during the first year of office since Herbert Hoover, and had front-loaded such press conferences during his honeymoon period.

In this current study, Smart Politics analyzed the 614 unique public appearances in which Obama made verbal remarks to the press or public (e.g. addresses, news conferences, interviews, remarks, exchanges) from Inauguration Day through March 21st, the day the Democratic health care bill passed through the House of Representatives. Data was culled from the Public Papers of the Presidents at The American Presidency Project.

The President gradually increased his number of such appearances from his first month in office, at 1.17 per day in January 2009 (14), to 1.46 per day in February (41), to 1.84 per day in March (57), to a peak of 2.07 per day in April (62).

During these first 101 days in office, when Obama was riding approval ratings in the mid- to low 60s, the President conducted 12 news conferences, gave 16 interviews, presented 5 formal addresses, and delivered another 141 speeches, remarks, and exchanges with reporters.

By contrast, during his first 80 days in office in 2010, with Obama struggling to hover above the 50 percent job approval mark, the President has conducted just 1 news conference, given just 1 interview, and delivered only 1 formal address - the State of the Union.

Other than a dip in August 2009, when Congress took its summer recess, Obama kept up his public appearances after April at a fairly good clip throughout the late spring and summer - averaging 1.48 verbal statements per day in May (46), 1.63 per day in June (49), and 1.61 per day in July (50).

However, after peaking again in September 2009, at 1.87 verbal statements per day (56), the President's appearances in which he delivered verbal remarks to the press or public declined to 1.68 per day in October (52), 1.53 per day in November (46), and 0.94 per day in December (29).

While some decrease might be expected in December due to the holidays, Obama became even more sheltered from the public eye in January 2010, averaging just 0.90 verbal statements per day (28).

And while the President's appearances increased slightly in February (1.25 per day, 35) and March (1.10 per day, 23) - they still rank near the bottom for public appearances across the 15 months Obama has been in office.

In short, delivering just 1.08 statements per day in 2010, Obama has been speaking in public at approximately half the rate as he did in April of 2009 - the month after the President's landmark economic recovery package became law.

Why would Obama seemingly adopt a more secluded public strategy in the midst of the high profile public debate over health care reform regarding which Obama allegedly stated to congressional Democrats that he needed the bill to pass to 'save his Presidency?'

Looking deeper inside the numbers, the decline in Obama's public appearances to its current rate of slightly more than 1 statement per day actually started in mid-November of 2009 - coinciding with the President's first Gallup approval rating south of 50 percent.

Gallup has conducted more than 400 tracking polls measuring the job approval rating of President Obama since he assumed office. Obama's approval rating first dipped below 50 percent in the organization's November 17-19, 2009 tracking poll.

Prior to November 19th, Obama had made 480 public appearances in which he delivered verbal remarks, or 1.58 per day. From November 19th through March 21st of 2010, the President has made only 128 such statements, or just 1.04 per day - a drop of 34 percent.

Obama's approval rating has seen an increase of five points over the past week in Gallup's tracking poll - from 46 to 51 percent.

It will therefore be interesting to see if the President now beefs up his public appearances in the near future, to sell the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or otherwise, should this job rating be sustained or eclipsed in the coming weeks.

President Obama's Verbal Statements and Job Approval Rating by Month

Month
Days
Statements
Per Day
Approval
Jan-09
12
14
1.17
66.3
Feb-09
28
41
1.46
63.9
Mar-09
31
57
1.84
61.9
Apr-09
30
62
2.07
62.6
May-09
31
46
1.48
64.7
Jun-09
30
49
1.63
60.7
Jul-09
31
50
1.61
57.5
Aug-09
31
26
0.84
53.3
Sep-09
30
56
1.87
52.1
Oct-09
31
52
1.68
52.8
Nov-09
30
46
1.53
51.0
Dec-09
31
29
0.94
50.2
Jan-10
31
28
0.90
49.4
Feb-10
28
35
1.25
50.3
Mar-10*
21
23
1.10
48.5
Total
426
614
1.44
56.0
* Through March 21st. Presidential statement data was culled from the Public Papers of the Presidents at The American Presidency Project. Monthly approval rating data culled from averages of Gallup tracking polls. Compiled by Smart Politics.

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2 Comments


  • This reminds me of an interesting argument over Obama's leadership that I've heard between Democrat and Republican friends. Republicans seem to feel that lack of public statements represents a lack of leadership while Dems feel his quiet style is part of a longer term strategy to gain public opinion.

  • Are you serious? Even before the 30% drop, he's made more appearances than any previous president. I don't know how he even has time to GOVERN when he spends so much time putting out his message. He needs to stop campaigning and espousing his opinion and spend more time doing his job as president and commander in chief, not chief political mouthpiece. We have press secretaries and national communications departments, we don't need him up there doing the same thing.

  • Leave a comment


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