Obama Approval Holding Steady in Low 50s

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Averaging 52% approval in September

PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama's approval rating has been highly stable for much of September. Currently at 51% in Gallup Daily tracking, it has been 51%, 52%, or 53% in each three-day rolling average since Sept. 5.

Barack Obama Job Approval, September 2009

"While not able to gain positive momentum in his job approval scores, Obama has clearly halted the decline in support observed in his approval rating for much of July and August."

This stability has persisted even as Obama has made a concerted push to increase support for his policies, particularly healthcare reform. On Sept. 9, he delivered a nationally televised address to Congress to outline his arguments for passing new healthcare legislation. And on Sept. 20, he made the unusual step of appearing on most of the major Sunday political talk shows, followed by an appearance on the David Letterman Show on Sept. 21.

While not able to gain positive momentum in his job approval scores, Obama has clearly halted the decline in support observed in his approval rating for much of July and August. That rating dipped as low as 50% in late August.

Barack Obama Job Approval, July-August 2009

Since dropping to 50%, his approval rating recovered to as high as 55% in the first few days of September, but has been stuck in the low 50s since then. He has not had an approval rating of 60% or above since July 17-19.

During September, an average of 85% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 17% of Republicans say they approve of the job Obama is doing as president. These party averages have also been stable throughout the month.

Obama's monthly average of 52% in September thus far (through Sept. 23) is among the lowest Gallup has measured for elected presidents since World War II in September of their first year in office. Only Bill Clinton had a lower average at this point in his presidency (50% in September 1993), while Ronald Reagan also averaged 52%, in September 1981. All three of these presidents entered office during difficult economic times.

John Kennedy had the highest "first September" average of 79%, while George W. Bush averaged 76% in September 2001, including a record-high 90% single-poll rating after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Elected Presidents' First-Year September Job Approval

Bottom Line

Just over half of Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, a proportion that has been highly stable through most of September. Obama's attempts this month to sell healthcare reform to the public have not paid off in higher job approval ratings for him, but neither has his support dipped below the majority level even as it teetered on the brink of doing so late last month.

Survey Methods

Results for each three-day rolling average are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,500 national adults, conducted in July, August, and September 2009, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on each three-day rolling average, 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 and cellular phones.

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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