The latest Gallup poll released yesterday was no doubt welcome news at the White House: "President Barack Obama's job approval rating has risen to 56%, by two percentage points his highest three-day reading since October 2009."
To be sure, Gallup's credibility took a hit after a very rough election cycle, but it's not the only pollster showing the president's approval rating on the upswing -- separate polls from CBS News and the Associated Press showed support for Obama's job performance at 57%.
There are multiple explanations for the president's improved standing, and they're not mutually exclusive. In recent weeks, there's been improved economic data, a horrific national tragedy (which sometimes leads to a "rally around the flag" effect), and fiscal talks in which the president has offered a series of good-faith compromises. The developments come against the backdrop of the president's re-election, which also usually leads to increased public support.
And while approval ratings may seem largely irrelevant now -- the president's name won't be on the ballot again -- poll numbers like these may have some practical effects. Indeed, consider the larger context: Obama has strong public backing; polls show broad support for his agenda and ideas proposed in the fiscal talks; Democratic popularity is improving; and Republicans are growing less popular as time goes on.
At a minimum, this should give the president renewed confidence when negotiating with Congress -- the polls strengthen his hand -- and discourage excessive concessions to his disliked and distrusted rivals.