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.