Americans fall out of love … again.

The thrill has gone, to linger on would spoil it anyhow … for the party’s over now.

— Noël Coward

Presidential Approval

The chart above isn’t the descent of the Matterhorn … it’s the downward trajectory of Barack Obama’s approval ratings in the Gallup Poll since his reelection last year.

Descent of the Matterhorn (Edward Whymper)
No good end: Explorer Edward Whymper’s climbing team shortly after reaching the summit of the Matterhorn (1865).

So it is a descent of sorts.  And it’s beginning to look eerily similar to what befell George W. Bush and his poll numbers at roughly the same period in his presidency, as this comparative graph prepared by the Pew Research Center illustrates:

Presidential poll comparisonsOne can point to specific events during each administration that could be inflection points in the public’s changing perception of presidential performance:  The Iraq War surge … Hurricane Katrina … the Affordable Care Act rollout … the Benghazi Consulate attack … the NSA eavesdropping scandal and so forth.

But I wonder if it’s actually those elements … or is it more that we fickle Americans are prone to tire of our presidents after about the fifth year or so.

Hearing one speech or one press conference too many … or perhaps hearing a statement or two by the administration that doesn’t ring quite true.  It’s not a big step to go from those unpleasant interactions to simply tuning out.

Whatever it is, we’re probably in the midst of witnessing a break between the public and the Obama administration that’s here to stay for the remainder of the President’s term.

Of course, the chart above also reminds us that second term presidential popularity trends looked somewhat different if we dip back in history 15 years or further.

What are your thoughts on today’s developments?  Is this the “new normal” for Americans in our “instant gratification” age?  Or do you see the dynamics differently?  Feel free to share your comments with other readers here.

The “Skinny” on 2010 Holiday Spending

Consumer Holiday Spending
Holiday spending on the rise? Yes, but ...
The “early returns” from this year’s Black Friday retail sales are quite encouraging. Online retail sales are experiencing an even bigger bump in activity. The question is, do these positive early results foreshadow a strong holiday season overall?

Each year, Gallup attempts to answer that question in advance by conducting a poll every November in which it asks U.S. consumers for a prediction of the total amount of money they plan to spend on holiday gifts. This year’s poll findings were published this past week.

And the results? The good news from the consumer economy’s standpoint is that the average personal spending expectation has risen to $714 for 2010, which is ~12% higher than last year’s $638.

The not-so-good news is that we’re still in the doldrums when measured against most of the previous decade. In fact, only in the years of 2009, 2008 and 2002 has expected personal spending been lower than it is this year.

If we take an average of the ten years covering 2000-2009, the expected personal spending found by Gallup’s survey is $747, which means that 2010’s dollar amount doesn’t even come up to the average of the past decade.

Here’s another interesting finding from the survey: Evidently, the increase in expected holiday spending compared to last year is being driven by only a small percentage of consumers. Half of the Gallup respondents reported they would be spending “about the same” this year, whereas one third reported they would actually be spending less.

The remainder – fewer than 15% — reported they would be spending more.

And all of that activity on the Internet? We can be sure a goodly amount of it is driven by the desire to find the very best price available. And to prove that out, the latest online holiday shopping report survey from rich media firm Unicast finds that more than half of consumers are using the Web to research and compare deals between online stores and retail outlets.

The bottom line on all this: It’s a mixed picture with a slight lean on the scale in favor of optimism. Which is a darn sight more positive than what we saw in 2008 and 2009.

Happy Chris-kwanz-ukah, everyone.