Is Obama more popular than he should be?

In fact, he is more popular than expected, and consistently so throughout these three years. His quarterly approval ratings are, on average, nine points higher than expected.

Mr. Obama’s experience is more the exception than the rule. Using these same data and model, we can construct an estimate of expected approval for every president back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. To do so, we simply exclude a president from the analysis, estimate the model, and then generate an out-of-sample prediction for that president. When we do that for each president, here are the results (click on the image to enlarge)…

Only two other presidents have experienced a discrepancy between expected and actual approval in their first terms that was larger than the discrepancy in Mr. Obama’s first three years. One was George W. Bush, and this arises largely because the model doesn’t fully anticipate the quickness and size of the “rally effect” that took place after Sept. 11, 2001. The other was Ronald Reagan, whose first-term approval ratings exhibited more fluctuation than Mr. Obama’s but were about 10 points above the model’s expectations, on average.