Obama Approval Dips to 47.9% in 18th Quarter in Office
Politics

Obama Approval Dips to 47.9% in 18th Quarter in Office

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Second consecutive quarter his approval average has declined

PRINCETON, NJ -- President Obama's job approval rating averaged 47.9% during his 18th quarter in office. His quarterly average has declined in each of the last two quarters after showing improvement in each of the five previous quarters, culminating with his re-election.

Trend: Barack Obama's Quarterly Job Approval Averages

The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 45,000 U.S. adults during Obama's 18th quarter in office, which ran from April 20-July 19.

Obama's best quarterly average to date was during his first quarter in office, during the honeymoon phase of his presidency, when he averaged 63.0% approval. His worst was 41.0% during his 11th quarter, at a time when he and Congress engaged in contentious negotiations to raise the federal debt limit, after which the United States' credit rating was downgraded and the U.S. stock market tanked.

Obama began his 18th quarter enjoying a modest rally after the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks. Presidents' approval ratings often increase after significant events, particularly those that relate to national security. From late April through early May, Obama's approval ratings were mostly at or above 50%. His approval rating held below 50% for most of the rest of May and nearly all of June. His Gallup Daily tracking three-day approval average has not been as high as 50% since June 25-27.

Gallup Daily Obama Job Approval Averages During His 18th Quarter in Office

The more recent decline in Obama's job approval rating is similar to what Gallup has observed for U.S. economic confidence.

Obama's 18th Quarter Average in Middle of Historical Distribution

Obama's 18th quarter average of 47.9% job approval ranks among neither the best nor the worst for post-World War II presidents who served that long. Rather, it is more typical, and similar to the 18th quarter averages for Harry Truman (48.7%) and George W. Bush (47.3%).

Quarterly Job Approval Averages for Presidents During 18th Quarter in Office

Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton were more popular at similar stages in their presidency than Obama is, while Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were less popular. At the time, Nixon's approval rating was affected by the Watergate political scandal. Senate hearings into the administration's involvement in the matter began during Nixon's 18th quarter in office.

Johnson's 18th quarter differs from those of other presidents in that it came several years after he was elected, while most other presidents' 18th quarters came early in their second term. In fact, Johnson made the decision not to run for a second elected term during his 18th quarter in office as his popularity waned due to the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Historically, the trend has been for presidents' approval ratings to decline in their 19th quarters in office. Five of the seven presidents to date serving a 19th quarter saw at least some decline in their approval ratings, including a steep 12-percentage-point drop for Nixon as his involvement in the Watergate scandal became clearer. The exceptions were Reagan and Clinton, both of whom presided over robust economies at that point in their presidencies.

Changes in Quarterly Job Approval Averages for Presidents From 18th to 19th Quarters in Office

Implications

The decline in Obama's 18th quarter rating means his approval rating has dropped in each of the two quarters of his second term. Truman and Bush, whose 18th quarter averages are most similar to Obama's, and who, like Obama, were not highly popular incumbents when they were elected to a second term, also showed a decline in popularity during the initial quarters of their second terms.

Obama will hope the remainder of his second term plays out better than it did for Truman and Bush, who experienced steady declines in their popularity and registered some of the lowest approval ratings in Gallup records late in their presidencies.

Both Bush and Truman certainly had significant challenges in their second terms, including protracted U.S. military engagements that began on their watches, and economies that were heading into recession.

Obama has ended U.S. involvement in Iraq and plans to end U.S. engagement in Afghanistan next year. And the economy, though still sluggish, has consistently grown since the 2008-2009 recession ended.

Thus, Obama appears to be less vulnerable to a steep decline in his popularity than Bush or Truman was. However, Obama, like any president, will face his own set of challenges, including the expanding federal debt and the need to raise the federal debt limit once again this year. Next year, many of the major provisions of Obama's signature Affordable Care Act are scheduled to go into effect, and how successfully those are implemented will clearly have an effect on how Americans view the president. The administration has already delayed the requirement that businesses with at least 50 employees offer health insurance to their employees, and the House last week passed a bill to delay the requirement that individuals carry health insurance.

Given the historical trends, it would not be unexpected for Obama's approval rating to decline further during his next quarter in office. However, his ability to respond to the challenges he faces will determine whether his approval ratings continue to decline or improve in his final years as president.

Explore President Obama's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 20-July 19, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 45,256 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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