The current level of satisfaction is significantly better than the 18% reading found at the start of Obama’s first term in February 2009. Since then, satisfaction has never exceeded 37%, and in mid-2011, it briefly dipped to 11%. This contrasts with a long-term range of 71% for the high found in February 1999 and 7% for the low recorded in October 2008.

U.S. satisfaction has not been above 30% on a sustained basis since the first half of 2007. For satisfaction to break that pattern will partly depend on national economic conditions — and therefore Americans’ confidence in the economy — significantly improving. The economy remains Americans’ most pressing concern when it comes to national matters. Increasing satisfaction could also depend on narrowing the large partisan gap in ratings that has characterized public satisfaction levels for much of the past decade.