No one who has watched Barack Obama’s polling closely would be surprised that his latest quarterly average job approval with Gallup has hit its low point of his presidency. They may, however, be surprised by some comparative numbers from other presidencies. Obama’s ratings have declined in every quarter, but he can take some comfort in the company he’s keeping:
President Obama averaged 47.3% job approval during his sixth quarter in office, spanning April 20-July 19 — his lowest quarterly average to date. Americans’ approval of Obama has declined at least slightly in each quarter of his presidency.
The latest quarterly results are based on interviews with more than 45,000 U.S. adults as part of Gallup Daily tracking. During this period, Obama saw a high of 52% approval in his three-day rolling average in mid-May, and several times saw a new low of 44%, including in mid-July. His sixth quarter in office was a period of continuing economic difficulty in the United States and coincided with the beginning of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
No one really expected Obama to stay in the mid-60s, but the ratings have been going in one direction through his entire presidency. The greatest drop came a year ago, between the second and third quarters, when Obama lost over nine points after the ObamaCare debate erupted. Since then, Obama has lost between 1.5 and two points each quarter on his average. If the White House expected a rebound from passage of ObamaCare, they’ve been sorely disappointed.
However, whether this means anything for Obama’s future is debatable. He actually ranks sixth out of the last nine presidents for an 18-month quarterly approval rating. Those who ranked below his 47.3%:
- Bill Clinton, 46.1%
- Ronald Reagan, 44.2%
- Jimmy Carter, 41.8%
Only Carter failed to win re-election of the three. Bill Clinton had the blessing of a three-way race in 1996, thanks to Ross Perot, and only needed 48% of the vote to win a second term. Reagan bounced all the way back himself after staying the course on his economic policies and taking a tough stand on the Cold War.
In fact, a high rating didn’t always help, either. George H. W. Bush had a sixth-quarter rating of 64.8%, and this was before going to war with Iraq, when his ratings soared into the 80s. It didn’t take long for his popularity to plummet, and for him to lose his re-election bid.
The lesson from this is that the sixth quarter rating is probably not meaningful for second-term campaigns. If the experience of Reagan and Clinton are an indication, though, it could be a harbinger of midterm results. We have plenty of other such harbingers at the moment, though, with more direct relation to that question.
Obama has time to rebound, but it’s becoming clear that he will need some major course corrections to do so. Whether he’s capable of that remains to be seen, but at least thus far, it doesn’t appear that he’s even considering them.