Obama Approval Drops, But Still Enjoying Honeymoon

Yesterday's round of Gallup polling showed Barack Obama's approval rating sliding down to 56 percent -- the lowest mark yet found in the poll. While it would be hasty to conclude that this number is, in itself, meaningful (though don't be surprised to see the cable newsers do so) as this number has occurred just once in Gallup polling, and the two previous times the President's approval rating hit 57 percent it immediately jumped back up to around 60 percent or above, these results should serve as a warning shot to the White House.

That all said, by Gallup's own definition, any approval rating north of 55 percent indicates a continuing honeymoon period for a President. And at present, with an approval rating of 56 percent or above into July, President Obama now holds the longest honeymoon period in two decades, bested recently by only George H.W. Bush. Indeed, if the President can right his course -- perhaps through successful confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor -- he has a real shot at holding the distinction of the second longest honeymoon period in 40 years.

To reiterate, these aren't the greatest numbers the President has seen, and the trend has to be at least a bit disheartening. That said, a little perspective indicates that Barack Obama is doing better than his two immediate predecessors in terms of popular opinion, and still holds a rather strong approval rating (regardless of what the cable nets say).

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I Don't Think That Means What They Think It Means

Atrios points this remarkable (and not in a good way) piece of journalism:

With only 46 days left, Americans start re-liking George W. Bush


Bush has set a recent record for unpopularity with a favorability rating of only 24%.

Now, with less than seven weeks to go out of Bush's 416 weeks in office, his popularity has jumped to 28%. Still not that great.

A single poll suggesting that George W. Bush's approval rating is inching up from 24 percent to 28 percent does not mean that Americans are now starting to "re-lik[e]" the President; a 28 percent approval rating is still remarkably abysmal, as is a 63 percent disapproval rating. What's more, it's well within the current range of polling on Bush's approval numbers, suggesting the difference between the two polls could be more about statistical noise than real movement.

There may be something to the idea that Americans' views of Bush will become less hardened over the next month. Speaking only personally, although I still strongly disapprove of the job Bush is doing, and has done, as President, my opposition to him seems slightly less urgent today than it did before the election when there still remained a chance that Bush could be succeeded by a Republican. That said, whether Bush's approval rating is 24 percent, or it has risen slightly to 28 percent, or even if it rises yet above 30 percent, Bush will still hold the record for the highest ever disapproval rating and will go down in history as one of the least popular Presidents this republic has seen.a

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Barack Obama's 78 Percent Approval Rating


President-elect Barack Obama gets soaring marks for his handling of the transition and his choices for the Cabinet, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, even at a time the public is downbeat over the economy.

More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far -- broad-based support he'll need as he faces tough decisions ahead.

By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former Democratic primary rival, as secretary of State.

By an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they favor his decision to ask President Bush's Pentagon chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to stay on the job.

These numbers are just stunning, and serve as further proof that Barack Obama will enter the White House with a greater mandate than any newly elected President in a very long time. While I certainly do not expect this spread to hold indefinitely, or even necessarily for the duration of Obama's first 100 days in office, this level of support gives Obama the juice to hit the ground running on January 20. A sky high approval rating doesn't mean that a President should get everything he wants -- but it does mean he should be able to get much or even most of it.

Update [2008-12-3 16:40:46 by Jonathan Singer]:Rasmussen pegs Obama's approval rating at 67 percent -- up 15 points since the election.

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George W. Bush Now Has Highest Disapproval Rating in History

Earlier this month, I noted that George W. Bush's disapproval rating had finally topped Richard Nixon's worst, 67 percent to 66 percent. However, once in early 1952 Harry Truman's disapproval rating jumped up to 67 percent, meaning that Bush only tied for the lead for the greatest disapproval rating in modern history, according to Gallup (which started polling during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Well, now Bush has the ignominious honor of holding the title of the highest ever disapproval rating all by himself.

President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.


Views of Bush divide sharply along party lines. Among Republicans, 66% approve and 32% disapprove. Disapproval is nearly universal -- 91% -- among Democrats. Of independents, 23% approve, 72% disapprove of the job he's doing.

Although George W. Bush, himself, will not be on the ballot in November, this polling underscores in the importance -- indeed the necessity -- for the Democrats to ensure that he is effectively on the ballot. This cycle should only further the tactic from 2006 of showing Republican candidates, not the least of which John McCain, alongside (and, in the case of McCain, literally hugging) Bush. With a whopping 69 percent of Americans disapproving of President Bush -- and more importantly 72 percent of independents doing so -- if this election is about George W. Bush (as it was during the 2006 midterms, when the Democrats won nationally by 6 to 7 points), it would be difficult for the Democrats to lose.

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George W. Bush's Disapproval Rating Now Tops Richard Nixon's

I've recently gotten out of the habit of noting George W. Bush's abysmal approval rating. We all know that he is wildly unpopular, so passing on polling showing that fact does little to further the discourse. However, every so often a survey comes along that is worth a mention, either for some interesting data point or historical meaning. In this case, Gallup, which has been polling Americans about as long as anyone else, now finds that President Bush's disapproval rating, at 67 percent, is tied for the highest in American history. Here's Gallup's write up:

President George W. Bush's job approval rating has dropped to 28%, the lowest of his administration. Bush's approval is lower than that of any president since World War II, with the exceptions of Jimmy Carter (who had a low point of 28% in 1979), and Richard Nixon and Harry Truman, who suffered ratings in the low- to mid-20% range in the last years of their administrations.


Bush's current 28% job approval rating is at the very low end of the spectrum of approval ratings Gallup has recorded across the 11 presidents in office since World War II. The average presidential job approval rating during that time has been 55%. The highest reading, as noted, is the 90% for the current President Bush in September 2001; the lowest is the 22% for Truman in February 1952.

Only three presidents in Gallup's history have received job approval ratings of 28% or lower:

  • Carter's low point of 28% was measured in late June and early July 1979, as the country underwent significant gas shortages and amid perceptions of a failing economy.
  • Nixon had a number of readings below 28% in 1973 and 1974 prior to his leaving office as a result of the Watergate scandal.
  • Truman recorded a number of readings below 28% in 1951 and 1952 as his administration was beset, similar to the current situation for Bush, with problems relating to the economy and an unpopular war (in Korea).

Of note is the fact that George W. Bush has now descended below the low point of his father's (George H.W. Bush's) administration. The senior Bush had a reading of 29% in July and August 1992. The former president also recorded a high point of 89%, the highest on record until his son's 90% in September 2001. Both Bushes, in short, have undergone radical 60-point drops in job approval in the course of their administrations.

As you can see, there have been Presidents in the past who have had lower approval ratings than George W. Bush, thus there have been less popular Presidents in the past. However, never before has a President's disapproval rating been higher, according to Gallup -- no President has ever been this unpopular (notice the difference between the two metrics).

The only President whose disapproval rating has come close to matching George W. Bush's was Richard Nixon. Back in August 1974, immediately preceding his retirement announcing, Nixon's disapproval rating stood at 66 percent, with 24 percent approving. Although the 1 percentage point difference between the disapproval ratings of George W. Bush today and Richard Nixon then is not statistically significant, the history books will now have to record the current President as the one holding the record for the highest ever disapproval rating. How's about that?

Update [2008-4-11 21:45:31 by Jonathan Singer]: Well, it looks like Harry Truman's disapproval rating went up to 67 percent in a January 1952 Gallup poll. So George W. Bush isn't the sole holder of the highest ever disapproval rating, according to Gallup, he's just one of the two holders of that ignominious title.

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