Obama's Approval Equal To or Better Than Bush's, Clinton's

by Frank Newport

Biggest change since inauguration has been decline among Republicans

PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama's job approval rating, at 61% in the latest three-day average of Gallup Poll Daily tracking, is slightly above where George W. Bush's and in particular Bill Clinton's were at this point in mid-March of the first years of their administrations.


Gallup's mid-March job approval rating for Bush, measured March 9-11, 2001, was 58%, with 29% disapproval. Gallup's March 12-14, 1993, approval rating for Clinton was 53%, with 34% disapproval. Both of these approval ratings are lower than Obama's current 61%. Bush's disapproval rating in mid-March 2001 was about the same as Obama's is now (28%), while Clinton's disapproval rating was significantly higher.

These comparisons suggest that President Obama is holding his own compared to the two presidents who came before him, despite some decline in his approval rating since his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Obama's first Gallup job approval rating, based on a three-day rolling average of interviewing conducted Jan. 21-23, was 68%, with 12% disapproval and 21% with no opinion. As the percentage of Americans with no opinion of his presidency has decreased over the last seven weeks, his approval has been trending down, and his disapproval moving up.


Obama's job approval rating is now lower than it was when he first took office, but this broad trend masks several short-term ups and downs over the weeks of his still-young presidency so far. But, for the month of March to date, the president's approval ratings appear to have stabilized. Obama's approval rating between March 1 and March 15 -- based on the three-day rolling averages reported by Gallup -- has been in a narrow band between 61% and 63%, while his disapproval rating has been in a similarly narrow range between 25% and 29%.

As is the case for most presidents, there are sharp partisan differences in Obama's job approval rating. Among Republicans, Obama's average approval for the past week (March 9-15) is 26%, among independents it is 59%, and among his fellow Democrats, 91%.


The analysis of weekly trends in Obama's approval ratings by party make it clear what's behind the changes observed since his inauguration: the major shift has been a significant decline in approval among Republicans. His approval rating among Democrats and independents has stayed roughly the same.


Bottom Line

Although Obama's job approval ratings have become more negative in the weeks since his inauguration, they remain at or above the ratings of his two immediate predecessors at similar points in their nascent presidencies. The major reason Obama's ratings have declined has been a drop in approval among Republicans, from 41% to 26%. Obama's approval ratings among independents and Democrats remain high, and have not changed significantly.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,547 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 13-15, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 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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