Obama Wins 83% Approval Rating for Transition

by Frank Newport

Forty-five percent rate Obama’s appointments as above average or outstanding

PRINCETON, NJ -- President-elect Barack Obama receives a remarkably high 83% approval rating for the way in which he has handled the presidential transition, significantly higher than the approval level for either of his immediate predecessors just before they first took office.


Obama's transition approval rating has actually increased slightly over the last month, despite the fact that he has encountered a few "speed bumps" in terms of his Cabinet appointments, including the withdrawal of his appointee for commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was forced to drop out owing to investigations into possible improper business dealings in his home state.

Gallup asked Americans in January 1993 and January 2001 the same transition approval question concerning Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively. In both instances, Americans were quite positive, although at a level well below their approval of Obama today.


Rating Obama's Appointments

Obama doesn't fare quite as well on a comparative basis when Americans are asked to rate the appointments he has made to Cabinet-level positions.


Forty-five percent of Americans say Obama's appointments have been above average or outstanding, with 38% saying they have been average and 10% below average. That is only slightly higher than the 38% who rated Bush's Cabinet-level appointments positively in January 2001. At the same time, both Obama and Bush received significantly higher marks for their Cabinet-level appointments than Clinton, who received only 27% and 32% positive ratings in two polls conducted in January 1993.

Confidence in Obama to Be a Good President

Gallup's continuing tracking (since the Nov. 4 election) of the public's confidence in Obama to be a good president provides additional evidence of the positive way he has handled the potential pitfalls of the transition period.


Obama had a 65% confidence rating in the first few days after his Nov. 4 election victory, has averaged 66% over the two and a half months between then and now, and has a 64% rating through Wednesday night of this week -- evidence of his steady hand at the transition tiller.

Obama's Favorable Rating

Obama also has earned an extraordinarily high 78% favorable rating in Gallup's most recent poll, conducted Jan. 9-11 -- his highest to date, and one of the higher favorable ratings for a political figure in Gallup's recent polling history. Obama's favorable rating is well above Bush's favorable rating of 62% in January 2001 just as he was taking office, and Bill Clinton's rating of 66% at the time of his first inauguration in mid-January 1993. Obama's rating was 68% just after the election last November.



A review of Gallup Poll data shows reinforces the conclusion that President-elect Obama has come through his transition period in very positive fashion, significantly more so than either of his immediate past predecessors, Bush or Clinton. Not only does the public give Obama very high approval ratings for the way in which he has handled the transition, but Americans' confidence in him to be a good president has remained positive and steady, and since his election, his favorable rating has climbed by 10 points to its highest point since Gallup first began to measure it in December 2006.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,031 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 9-11, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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