Today’s Rasmussen numbers from their daily presidential poll puts Barack Obama into an unusual position.  In just 14 months, he has made himself more unpopular than his predecessor, at least by the measure of strong disapproval.  Obama’s approval index has tied its lowest mark yet at -21:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President (see trends).

Each time the President leads a big push for his health care plan, his job approval ratings suffer. For Members of Congress, the impact may be more tangible. Just 34% say they’re more likely to vote for someone who supports this legislation. Fifty-percent (50%) are less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who supports the health care reform plan proposed by the President and Congressional Democrats. …

Overall, 45% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove.

Yid with Lid notes that Bush’s final strong-disapproval number was 43%:

Well that didn’t take very long, in January 2009 Rasmussen reported In the final full month of his Presidency, just 13% of American adults said they Strongly Approved of the way that George W. Bush performed his job as president. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapproved.

This morning, the same Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll reported that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove of his performance. (I wonder if that means he will start blaming everything on Obama).

YWL mixes apples and oranges a bit here, since the Obama rating is the daily poll result and not the monthly poll that he quotes for Bush.  It’s worth noting, though, that Bush’s approval rating at the time of his exit from the White House was 35%, ten full points below that of Obama.   That wasn’t even Bush’s worst monthly showing, either.  He hit 32% in July 2008.

What do these numbers show?  Despite Bush’s reputation as a polarizer, Bush attempted to govern on domestic policy much closer to the center, which kept the “strong disapproval” numbers somewhat lower even when his popularity ebbed to its nadir.  Clinton did the same after 1994, and still was a polarizing figure in politics.  Barack Obama, on the other hand, has pushed through a radical, statist agenda since his inauguration, which has more actively polarized the electorate than happened with either of his predecessors.

The comparison shows that people who disapprove of Obama are much more likely to feel strongly about that disapproval.  Those who approve of Obama are a lot less likely to feel strongly about it than Obama’s critics.  That comes from the ideological approach Obama and the Democrats have adopted.  As long as his support remains in the 40s, comparisons to Bush as “more unpopular” are not terribly credible — although if Obama continues on this trajectory, he may get there a lot sooner than did Bush.

On the other hand, the fact that the RCP polling average has Obama underwater for the first time is pretty significant, especially since Obama is still stuck on agenda item #2.