- 50% approve of Obama's job performance in latest weekly reading
- Nearly nine in 10 Democrats approve, up from 81% in early 2016
- Americans view Obama's final year similarly to Reagan's thus far
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Barack Obama earned a 50% job approval rating for the week ending March 6, his highest weekly average since May 2013.
Obama's current 50% weekly average exceeds the 46% he averaged in his seventh year in office, which ended on Jan. 19 of this year. This latest rating also exceeds his 47% average since taking office in 2009, spanning nearly two full terms.
Throughout his seven years in office, Obama's ratings have been among the most politically polarized of any modern president. His current higher overall rating continues to reflect an extreme degree of party polarization, with 87% of Democrats approving of the job Obama is doing as president versus 11% of Republicans.
Obama's current standing with Democrats is four percentage points higher than his average approval rating among Democrats since taking office in 2009. At the same time, his job approval ratings from Republicans and independents are close to his term averages for these groups. Obama's current 87% reading among Democrats is also up from 81% at the beginning of this year, while his ratings among independents and Republicans have been more stable over the past two months.
While it's hard to pinpoint precisely why Obama's approval rating has risen among Democrats recently, there are a number of plausible explanations. The unusual status of the Republican primary race -- exemplified in particular by front-runner Donald Trump's campaign style and rhetoric -- may serve to make Obama look statesmanlike in comparison. The campaign season also may activate latent partisan loyalty among those broadly in the Democratic camp.
Obama's Approval Ahead of Bush's, Below Clinton's and on Par With Reagan's
Although up, Obama's overall job approval rating is still lower than that of his most recent Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, at a comparable point in his two-term presidency. In early March 2000, Clinton's approval rating was 63%. At that point, Clinton fared about as well as Obama among Democrats -- 89% approved of Clinton then, compared with the 87% who approve of Obama now. But unlike Obama, a majority of independents (65%) and close to a third of Republicans (31%) rated Clinton well, reflecting a much less polarized environment 16 years ago.
Obama is doing significantly better than his most recent predecessor, George W. Bush, who had a 32% job approval rating in March 2008. Bush was rated equally poorly by the opposing party as Obama is today. However, unlike Obama, he did not enjoy the same high level of support from his own party, with fewer than three in four Republicans (72%) approving of his job performance at that time.
In March 1988, 51% of U.S. adults approved of Ronald Reagan's job performance, almost identical to Obama's current rating. Reagan's profile across party lines was not as polarized as Obama's, however, with 81% approval among Republicans and 28% among Democrats.
After averaging 48% in the first two months of the year, Obama's weekly job approval rating has edged up to 50%. This increase has been driven partly by Democrats' approval of Obama rising to a nearly three-year high. Obama's popularity among Democrats has been improving steadily over the past year -- perhaps one reason why presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is tacking herself tightly to the Obama legacy.
In comparison, the two most recent candidates running to succeed a two-term president of the same party -- John McCain running to follow the unpopular Bush, and Al Gore trying to succeed the popular but scandal-prone Bill Clinton -- went to greater pains to ensure they were not associated with the outgoing president. Prior to that, George H.W. Bush in 1988 presented himself as a natural heir to the Reagan legacy and was able to win his own term.
These data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 29-March 6, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 3,563 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, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.