After 2 Years Obama’s Approval Rating Is Higher than Clinton and Reagan

The latest Gallup poll on President Obama’s job approval rating contained an interesting nugget of information. After two years on the job, Barack Obama’s approval rating is higher than that of two recent presidents who had big reelection victories, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. One term Presidents George HW Bush and Jimmy Carter, and post-9/11 president George W. Bush had higher ratings than Obama at the halfway mark.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama’s weekly job approval rating is holding steady at 47%. Despite all of the criticism that this president has faced his approval rating is down only slightly from the same week in 2009 when it was 51%. The problem with weekly job approval ratings is that at best they only provide an immediate snapshot of public opinion. They do not encompass long term trends, or the possible shifting of attitudes based on long term unfolding political developments, but with the economy continuing to struggle, the fact that Obama’s approval rating is remaining steady is good news for the White House.

At the halfway point of Obama’s term, his approval rating is right in the middle of the pack when the last six presidents are ranked. George H.W. Bush had the highest approval rating at the midpoint of his term, (63%). Second on the list was his son, George W. Bush, (61%). Next on the list is Jimmy Carter at 51%. Obama was fourth at 47%, and surprisingly two most popular recent presidents were at the bottom. Ronald Reagan was at 43%, and Bill Clinton was at 40%.

Both of the Bush presidencies had their midterm popularity boosted by the patriotism of being war time presidents. For George H.W. Bush, the Gulf War boosted his approval, while George W. Bush was still benefiting from the nation’s emotional reaction to 9/11 and their support of the war in Afghanistan. Because of this neither of these presidents’ approval ratings are an accurate comparison to Obama. Carter is an interesting case, but his approval rating was soon to plummet under the weight of the Iran hostage crisis.

A more accurate comparison for Obama is to the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. In 1994, Bill Clinton saw his approval rating sink to as low as 39%. The high water mark for Clinton from July of 1994 through the rest of the year was 48%. President Clinton’s approval rating from Thanksgiving until the end of the year did not go any higher than 42%. Clinton also suffered a disastrous midterm defeat where his party lost control of both the House and the Senate.

Until the current recession, the Reagan recession was the worst in recent memory. It might seem hard to believe now, because Reagan is remembered as a popular president, but Reagan’s job approval rating for his second year in office was 43%. Reagan struggled through most of 1983. He began the year with an approval rating of 35%, and it took him 11 months of the year to reach a 50% job approval rating.

After closing the year with a string of legislative successes, the talk of Obama being a one term president, or facing a 2012 primary challenger has faded, but the ongoing recession has taken a toll on the President’s job approval ratings. By looking at the differential between Reagan and Clinton’s recessionary and post-recession approval ratings, it is possible to argue that a poor economy can cost a president 10-15 points of approval. These things considered, President Obama isn’t in that bad of shape as he heads into the second half of his first term.

Only George W. Bush had a midterm approval rating of over 50% and went on to win reelection. Bush is somewhat of a special case as he benefitted at the midpoint from terrorism concerns and the war in Afghanistan, and he was able to narrowly win reelection by campaigning on being a wartime president, and the war in Iraq. In 2004, Bush was able to capitalize on American voters’ reluctance to change presidents during wartime.

As the economy turns upwards, Obama’s approval ratings will follow. The fact that this president has managed to keep his approval rating near 50% despite the economy, an epic midterm election loss by his party, and daily criticism by his opposition is not good news for Republicans looking ahead to 2012. Should the economy improve by the time Obama faces reelection, I think he will probably achieve a similar result to what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will able to accomplish with their reelection bids.

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12 Replies to “After 2 Years Obama’s Approval Rating Is Higher than Clinton and Reagan”

  1. that’s the big if, if the economy rebounds.

    I’m torn between looking at the corporations who are making huge gains without hiring people, and the smaller corporations who are not making huge gains and are not hiring anyone. I’m not sure that I see a big rebound in jobs simply because the demand isn’t there. No one working, no demand. No demand, no one working. That is of course in general terms. Wall Street is predicting a very good market next year. That doesn’t always make it a very good year for the man on the street who does the voting. not to mention I think there are some major entities who are in collusion with the Republicans

    I certainly hope things pick up, this country could not bear to have a Republican president

  2. I’m darn proud of our President! He puts up with endless griping and keeps on governing. I don’t remember a time in my life when I trusted the President as I do President Obama. Clinton comes in second, but he was too corporate and his personal habits blemished him as a trush-worthy role model in my mind.

  3. Obama’s enemies have always underestimated him, in addition to their nonstop campaign to discredit him. I have absolutely no regrets about having voted for him, especially when I see what we would have been stuck with in the form of 2 sore losers who continue to show why they deserved to lose. Since true recovery won’t occur overnight, we Americans need to think long-term beyond our penchant for instant gratification and instant solutions. Since Obama still has veto power, I hope he will use it to thwart any of the crazy plans the Party of No tries to implement in this new Congress.

  4. A strong economy is exactly what the Republicans will be working very hard in the next two years to try and make sure doesn’t occur. It is there golden goose going into 2012 and the Presidency is the golden egg they all covet.
    If they can keep the economy from either improving or only improving at a slow enough pace that some or most Americans won’t notice the improvement, then they have a slim chance of capturing that golden egg for themselves, at least in their minds.
    Frankly, I think their golden goose is just layered in golden tinfoil with a mushy center that goes bad as it ages and should be thrown in the garbage. Hopefully the electorate of 2012 will be the garbage disposal for Republican dreams of corporate-hood, theocracy and a multitude of other rotten material.

  5. It only goes to show you that destroying the President is far ahead of repairing the country for the Republabaggers. The better he does the worse they look.
    They are only interested in their own power. They will say anything, do anything, to get the chance to destroy us again.

    If you noticed all during the campaign they NEVER had any solutions to problems. They filled their time with stalling the Presidents agenda to help the country, by filibustering every possible thing they could.

    With no ideas or solutions they maligned the President with every breath.
    Yet this country gave them back the congress. I think this says more about US then THEM. How could we be so stupid?

  6. Good news? What were Obama’s poll numbers leading up to last November’s election, when the GOP gained 63 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate and changed several blue states like PA, MI, WI, etc. into red states? Does the word “shellacking” come to mind?

  7. This is like reading a WWE fan site.

    It doesn’t matter who’s president. The whole “Gang of 546” is out to get what’s ours with their socialist agenda.

    The only “sides” are we who work for a living vs. the parasite class of freeloading politicians.

    I hope someday you all realize that you’re being conned.

    “None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.” – W. Goethe

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