Commentary on the debt limit issue is littered with citations of poll results that show, for example, respondents saying they would blame “congressional Republicans” more than “President Obama” for default or failure to reach agreement. Those citations are mostly accurate, but they miss the point. One of the rules of thumb in polling is that individuals are almost always more favorably regarded than groups. So we should expect comparisons between a well-known individual like President Obama and a group the individual members of whom are mostly not well-known would favor the individual. Such results are unremarkable—and prove very little.
Yes, you can probably think of exceptions to the rule of thumb. Richard Nixon may have been more unpopular than “congressional Democrats” in the weeks before the 37th president was forced to resign. But that’s a classic case of the exception proving the rule.Barack ObamaBeltway ConfidentialRichard NixonUS