Gallup Poll: Obama Approval Dips to 47.9% in 18th Quarter in Office
Signs of the “second term curse” afflicting President Barack Obama continue to mount:
President Obama’s job approval rating averaged 47.9% during his 18th quarter in office. His quarterly average has declined in each of the last two quarters after showing improvement in each of the five previous quarters, culminating with his re-election.
The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 45,000 U.S. adults during Obama’s 18th quarter in office, which ran from April 20-July 19.
Obama’s best quarterly average to date was during his first quarter in office, during the honeymoon phase of his presidency, when he averaged 63.0% approval. His worst was 41.0% during his 11th quarter, at a time when he and Congress engaged in contentious negotiations to raise the federal debt limit, after which the United States’ credit rating was downgraded and the U.S. stock market tanked.
How does he compare with others? Republican partisans will start suggesting he is among the worst in the polls. But that isn’t true (yet):
Obama’s 18th quarter average of 47.9% job approval ranks among neither the best nor the worst for post-World War II presidents who served that long. Rather, it is more typical, and similar to the 18th quarter averages for Harry Truman (48.7%) and George W. Bush (47.3%).
Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton were more popular at similar stages in their presidency than Obama is, while Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were less popular. At the time, Nixon’s approval rating was affected by the Watergate political scandal. Senate hearings into the administration’s involvement in the matter began during Nixon’s 18th quarter in office.
Johnson’s 18th quarter differs from those of other presidents in that it came several years after he was elected, while most other presidents’ 18th quarters came early in their second term. In fact, Johnson made the decision not to run for a second elected term during his 18th quarter in office as his popularity waned due to the ongoing war in Vietnam.
Historically, the trend has been for presidents’ approval ratings to decline in their 19th quarters in office. Five of the seven presidents to date serving a 19th quarter saw at least some decline in their approval ratings, including a steep 12-percentage-point drop for Nixon as his involvement in the Watergate scandal became clearer. The exceptions were Reagan and Clinton, both of whom presided over robust economies at that point in their presidencies.
But the trending can’t be pleasing to the White House.
Precisely what should — and can in this polarized, gridlocked political environment — Obama do to turn it around? He had barely finished his remarks on racism before some conservatives labelled his remarks — which many more moderate to traditional conservatives found fine — racist. Can he improve his perceived performance? Or keep it where it is? Or is it inexorably doomed to fall even more?