Obama Job Approval Drifts Down to 58% So Far in July

by Frank Newport

Approval rating of 53% among independents reflects six-point drop from June average

PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. President Barack Obama averaged a 58% job approval rating for the first eight days of July, down from an average of 61% for June. His approval rating is down most significantly among independents, to 53% so far in July from an average of 59% in June; it has dropped two points among Republicans (from 25% in June to 23% so far in July) and has gone up a point among Democrats, to 90%.


Democrats have remained stalwart in their support for Obama all year, with this month's average rating of 90% roughly in line with where it has been all year.

Among Republicans, Obama's standing has dropped from 40% in late January to 23% in early July, the biggest falloff among the three partisan groups across the first six months of the Obama administration. Independents' overall downward shift across the January to early July time period has been nine points, significantly less than the drop among Republicans, although, as noted, independents have dropped most in the July-to-June comparison.

In addition to monthly averages, Gallup reports Obama's job approval rating at Gallup.com each day, based on three-day rolling averages. Obama reached a new administration low of 56% for July 5-7; his approval average is one point higher at 57% for the latest three-day period, July 6-8.


Comparisons to Other First-Year Presidents

From a historical perspective, Obama's current July rating is not exceptional. It is roughly the same as the rating of George W. Bush in early July of his first year, although well above that of Bill Clinton in July 1993 (Clinton had by far the worst ratings in the summer of his first year of all presidents elected to their first terms since Eisenhower). Other presidents from 1952 on enjoyed higher ratings in July of their initial years in office than has been the case for the last three presidents, the one exception being Richard Nixon, whose 58% reading in mid-July 1969 is identical to where Obama is now. Thus, Obama's current approval rating is above-average only in comparison to Clinton at the same point in time. It is essentially on par with where Bush and Nixon were, but at least slightly worse than all other presidents (with the exception of Clinton). In particular, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush all had significantly higher ratings in the summer of their first year than does Obama at this point.


Looking Ahead

It is not unusual to find job approval ratings drifting downward as presidents' honeymoon periods begin to fade. The drop in Obama approval seen so far in July is to some degree expected. What happens from this point, however, on is highly unpredictable. Presidents like Reagan and Clinton did not begin to recover from first-year dropoffs in their ratings until well into their second, third, and fourth years -- just in time to ensure both presidents of solidly successful re-election bids. George H.W. Bush saw his job approval ratings shoot up at the beginning of his third year in office on the basis of the successful Persian Gulf War, only to fall precipitously thereafter, ultimately leading to his being voted out of office in the 1992 election. In similar fashion, Jimmy Carter's job approval ratings began to suffer in his second year in office. Although he enjoyed some upticks at various points thereafter, his overall averages remained low -- particularly in his final two years -- and Reagan defeated him decisively in the 1980 election. George W. Bush's job approval rating, as is well known, leaped to the highest level in Gallup Poll history after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and remained high enough in the remaining three years to help him successfully gain re-election in 2004.

Each recent American president has therefore generated a distinct trajectory of job approval through his first term. Thus, Obama's current status provides little clue as to where he might be over the remaining three and a half years of his first term in office. We do know, however, that Obama's current standing is at the lower end of the spectrum of presidents' job approval ratings in July of their first years in office, and on par with his immediate predecessor.

Survey Methods

Results for July are based on telephone interviews with 3,703 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted between July 1-3 and July 6-8, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on this total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points. Other monthly samples are based on telephone interviews with approximately 15,000 national adults each month, with a maximum margin of sampling error of ±1 percentage point.

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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