Obama's 2011 Gallup job approval rating lowest yet

This past year’s presidential job-approval average from Gallup caught me by surprise.  After all, Barack Obama got Osama bin Laden in May, which gave him a few weeks of good job approval ratings, and his 2010 drubbing in the midterm elections would make most presume that he’d reached his nadir. Not hardly:

President Barack Obama averaged 44% job approval for his third full year in office, which ended Jan. 19. His third-year average is down slightly from his second-year average of 47% and much lower than his first-year average of 57%.

Obama’s third-year average is based on approximately 175,000 interviews with U.S. adults conducted between Jan. 20, 2011 — the second anniversary of his inauguration — and Jan. 19, 2012.

Obama’s job approval rating during his third year in office had its ups and downs, peaking at 53% in May and falling as low as 38% in August and October.

Obama actually finished worse than the overall annual average, with just 43% approval in the final quarter.  That included a handful of mid-40s approval ratings at the end of the quarter, so one could argue that Obama has a little momentum coming into a presidential-election year.  However, even those readings don’t beat his 2010 average, when Obama’s party got clobbered in midterm elections.

Actually, Obama should be thanking Jimmy Carter.  Without Carter’s abysmal 37.9% for 1979, Obama would have set the lowest mark in Gallup history for third-year approval ratings.  He now edges out Ronald Reagan, who finished 1983 with a 44.9% rating, but fell well short of Bill Clinton’s 47.5%, which is now third lowest in the series.  Of course, both of those presidents won their re-election bids the following year, but both of those also had economies that had obviously strengthened and job creation well under way, especially Clinton, whose rating had more to do with HillaryCare and budgets.  (The only other person besides Carter to lose his re-election bid in this series was George H. W. Bush, whose third-year rating was an astronomical 69.5, second-best in the series behind Eisenhower’s 72.1%.)

Andrew Malcolm sums it up well, including Gallup’s note that this is one of the poorer annual averages in their 68-year history:

According to Gallup’s analysis:

“Comparing Obama’s third-year numbers with all presidential years in Gallup records, Obama’s 44% average job approval rating is well below average, ranking 53rd of the 68 presidential years measured.”

So far, so bad. …

So, the better Americans have come to know the guy and to watch his record, the less they seem to think of him. Of course, what really matters is what they think of him starting with early voting this October and ending the night of Nov. 6.

We’ll know more about that as this year unwinds, but unless there is a dramatic economic improvement, those numbers aren’t coming up.  If getting Osama bin Laden doesn’t make a difference, then nothing else will.