Politics

Will Bush Get a Post-Election Bounce?

Now that George W. Bush has won a second term in the White House, will his job approval ratings go up? A review of Gallup polling shows that incumbent presidents, in most cases in recent years, usually get a modest boost in their overall job approval ratings after American voters give them the nod. 

Since Gallup first began measuring presidential job approval, there have been 10 elections in which an incumbent has sought re-election. (This analysis does not take into account Bush's victory over Sen. John Kerry last week, because Gallup has yet to conduct a full post-election survey that collects job approval data.) The data show all presidents average a six-point bounce in their approval ratings from the last survey conducted before the election to the first survey after the election. Successful incumbents, on average, get a seven-point bounce, and ousted incumbents average a four-point bounce.

Change in Presidential Job Approval Ratings
Pre-Election to Post-Election
1940-1996

 

 

 

Change in percentage approving of president

Average for all presidents

+6 points

Average for re-elected incumbents

+7 points

Average for defeated incumbent

+4 points

 

Incumbents Who Get Another Term

Seven incumbent presidents won their re-election bids out of the 10 in this analysis. All of them, except for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, received a bounce in their approval ratings. The table summarizes the change in presidential job approval ratings for incumbents who successfully defeated their challengers.

Change in Presidential Job Approval Ratings
Pre-Election to Post-Election
Among Incumbents Who Won Their Re-Election Bids

 

 


Approve


Disapprove

Pre/Post-Election
Change

 

%

%

 

1996 (Clinton)

 

 

 

Pre (Oct 26-29)

54

36

 

Post (Nov 21-24)

58

31

+4

 

 

 

 

1984 (Reagan)

 

 

 

Pre (Oct 26-29)

58

33

 

Post (Nov 21-24)

61

31

+3

 

 

 

 

1972 (Nixon)

 

 

 

Pre (Jun 23-26)

56

33

 

Post (Nov 11-14)

62

28

+6

 

 

 

 

1964 (Johnson)

 

 

 

Pre (Jun 25-30)

74

15

 

Post (Nov 20-25)

70

19

-4

 

 

 

 

1956 (Eisenhower)

 

 

 

Pre (Aug 3-8)

68

19

 

Post (Nov 22-27)

75

15

+7

 

 

 

 

1948 (Truman)

 

 

 

Pre (May 28-Jun 2)

39

47

 

Post (1949 Jan 7-12)

69

17

+30

 

 

 

 

1940 (Roosevelt)

 

 

 

Pre (Jul 11-16)

64

26

 

Post (1941 Feb 16-21)

68

26

+4

1996

Prior to the election in 1996, an Oct. 26-29 poll showed that 54% of Americans approved of the way Bill Clinton was handling his job as president. After the election, Clinton's approval ratings edged up to 58%.

In many of these election boosts, partisanship plays a role. Clinton's approval remained essentially even among Republicans (19% approved pre-election and 20% post-election) and Democrats (86% and 87%), but it increased among independents (from 46% to 58%). 

1984

A majority of Americans, 58%, approved of the way Ronald Reagan was handling the presidency, prior to his victory over Democratic challenger Walter Mondale in 1984. By late November, Reagan's approval ratings increased just slightly, to 61%.

Reagan's modest boost came more from Democrats than Republicans or independents. Ratings remained the same among Republicans and independents between these two polls, while Reagan's approval increased from 26% to 34% among Democrats.

1972

Richard Nixon's job approval ratings increased six points after he won re-election in 1972. Gallup found that 56% of Americans approved of Nixon in June that year, while 62% approved of him in mid-November.

Nixon's approval ratings increased among Democrats, while remaining unchanged among Republicans (87% to 89%) and independents (61% to 60%). Prior to the election, 39% of Democrats approved of Nixon, and after the election, 46% of Democrats approved of him.

1964

Johnson is the only example of an incumbent who won his re-election bid but had a lower approval rating after the election than before. In June 1964, nearly three in four Americans, 74%, approved of Johnson. This percentage decreased four points, to 70%, in November.

Pre- and post-election surveys show that LBJ's approval ratings remained the same among Democrats (85% to 83%) and independents (58% to 60%), but decreased substantially among Republicans, from 61% prior to the election to 46% after the election.

1956

Prior to the 1956 election, 68% of Americans approved of the way Dwight D. Eisenhower was handling the presidency. After Eisenhower won re-election, 75% of Americans approved of him.

Eisenhower's ratings improved among both Republicans and Democrats after he won re-election. In August, 87% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats approved of Eisenhower. In November, approval of Eisenhower increased to 94% among Republicans and 57% among Democrats.

1948

Harry S. Truman's approval ratings increased 30 points, from 39% in May/June 1948 to 69% in January 1949. It should be noted that Gallup's final pre-election approval rating and initial post-election approval were taken from two polls conducted seven months apart, a longer time frame than most of the other incumbent approval ratings in this analysis.

1940

In July 1940, 64% of Americans approved of the way Franklin D. Roosevelt was handling the presidency; by February 1941, 68% approved of FDR. Again, it should be noted that these two surveys of approval were conducted within seven months of one another.

Incumbents Who Lost Their Re-Election Bids

Of the three ousted incumbents, two saw an improvement in job approval ratings, while the third saw a decrease in approval. George H.W. Bush in 1992 saw a 10-point increase in approval ratings, from 33% to 43%. Gerald Ford's approval ratings increased from 45% in June 1976 to 53% in December 1976. But, Jimmy Carter's ratings dropped six points, from 37% in September 1980 to 31% in November 1980.

Change in Presidential Job Approval Ratings
Pre-Election to Post-Election
Among Incumbents Who Lost Their Re-Election Bids

 

 

 

 

 


Approve


Disapprove

Pre/Post-Election
Change

 

%

%

 

1992 (Bush)

 

 

 

Pre (Oct 13-15)

33

57

 

Post (Nov 20-22)

43

46

+10

 

 

 

 

1980 (Carter)

 

 

 

Pre (Sep 12-15)

37

55

 

Post (Nov 21-24)

31

56

-6

 

 

 

 

1976 (Ford)

 

 

 

Pre (Jun 11-14)

45

40

 

Post (Dec 10-13)

53

32

+8

Bottom Line

Gallup's last measure of presidential job approval was taken just days prior to the election, and showed the president with the lowest approval of his administration, at 48%. Although there are relatively few cases in which Gallup can provide insight into the change in presidential job approval ratings post-election, the available data suggest that Bush should expect to see his 48% approval rating go up to the mid-50% range now that the election is over.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 29-31, 2004. 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.

The results for the presidential approval ratings for Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush based on telephone interviews with at least 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older. 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.

The results for the presidential approval ratings for Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, and Franklin Roosevelt are based on in-person interviews with at least 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older. 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.

 

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/14011/Will-Bush-Get-PostElection-Bounce.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030