Obama Approval Slips Further in Fifth Quarter to 48.8%

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Ranks among lowest fifth-quarter averages for elected presidents

PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama averaged 48.8% job approval for his fifth quarter in office, spanning Jan. 20-April 19 Gallup Daily tracking. That is the lowest of his presidency to date, though not appreciably worse than his 50.8% fourth quarter average.

Barack Obama's Quarterly Job Approval Averages

Obama's approval ratings have generally been near the 50% mark since mid-November, although all of his weekly approval averages since late February have been below 50%.

Obama's latest quarterly score of 48.8% is below average by historical standards, ranking in the 35th percentile of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has data, dating to 1945. The average historical quarterly approval average is 54%.

Additionally, Obama's latest quarterly average does not compare favorably to other elected presidents' averages at similar points in their presidencies. Obama joins Ronald Reagan (46.3%) and Jimmy Carter (48.0%) as the only elected presidents after World War II whose fifth quarter approval averages were below the 50% mark.

Prior Presidents' Fifth Quarter Average Approval Ratings, Gallup Polls

Two of the three non-elected presidents (Harry Truman at 44.0% and Gerald Ford at 46.0%) also had sub-50% approval averages during their fifth quarters in office. The other non-elected president, Lyndon Johnson, averaged 70.0%.

Obama's ratings have generally been stable over the last six months, but the sixth quarter has proved an unkind one to presidents, as all but one saw their average approval ratings decline from their fifth to their sixth quarter in office. Only Richard Nixon avoided a decrease in this quarter among post-World War II presidents, and 6 of the 11 had substantial declines of four points or more.

Change in Presidents' Fifth to Sixth Quarter Average Approval Ratings, Gallup Polls

Bottom Line

Obama began his presidency with some of the higher approval ratings for a new president in recent history. But the battle over healthcare reform and the continuing economic slump have apparently taken a toll on his popularity, and his averages for his third, fourth, and fifth quarters have all ranked on the low end historically. The net effect is that Obama's 56% overall approval rating for the first five quarters of his presidency is essentially the same as the historical average approval rating of 54%.

Visit Gallup's Presidential Job Approval Center to get Obama's latest approval ratings now and to compare them to those of past presidents.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 45,159 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 20-April 19, 2010, as part of Gallup 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 ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline 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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