Bush Averages Near-Record 86% Job Approval Rating in Fourth Quarter

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Ends first year with tenth-highest yearly average

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- January 20 marks the end of an eventful first year in office for President George W. Bush. During that year, Bush faced several challenges, including an economic recession, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and a war in Afghanistan to combat terrorism. Public approval of the job Bush did in his first year averaged 67%, but this overall figure masks two very distinct phases. From the time of his inauguration through Sept. 10, Bush's approval rating was just slightly above average at 57%. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the public rallied behind government leaders, and Bush received some of the highest job approval ratings in Gallup's polling history, including a record high 90% in late September.

Bush's average approval rating for the fourth quarter of his presidency (extending from Oct. 20 to Jan. 19) was 86%. This mark has only been bettered by Harry S Truman's 87% rating in the spring of 1945 following Franklin Roosevelt's death. Gallup polled the public on Truman's performance only once during this quarter, although in the subsequent quarter Truman also received approval ratings in the 80s. In recent times, only the elder George Bush's 83% rating for the first quarter of 1991, which coincided with the successful conclusion of the Persian Gulf war, comes close to the current president's fourth quarter average.

Top 15 Quarterly Averages of
Presidential Job Approval

Average

Readings

1

Truman

Apr 20-Jul 19, 1945

87.0

1

2

George W. Bush

Oct 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002

86.0

8

3

Bush

Jan 20-Apr 19, 1991

82.7

12

4

Truman

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1945

82.0

1

5

Kennedy

Oct 20, 1961-Jan 19, 1962

78.3

3

6

Kennedy

Jan 20-Apr 19, 1962

78.0

3

7

Kennedy

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1961

76.8

4

8

Eisenhower

Oct 20, 1955-Jan 19, 1956

76.3

3

9

Johnson

Oct 20, 1963-Jan 19, 1964

76.3

3

10

Kennedy

Apr 20-Jul 19, 1961

76.2

5

11

Johnson

Jan 20-Apr 19, 1964

76.0

5

12

Eisenhower

Oct 20, 1956-Jan 19, 1957

75.7

3

13

Kennedy

Oct 20, 1962-Jan 19, 1963

74.7

3

14

Kennedy

Jan 20-Apr 19, 1961

74.3

3

15

Johnson

Apr 20-Jul 19, 1964

74.3

6

Fourth Quarter Boosts Bush

Bush's high fourth quarter ratings made up for an average performance throughout much of 2001. His first and second quarter ratings were just above the average presidential approval rating of 55%, and were a little below average for a first-year president. In fact, among all the presidents since Truman, only George Bush the elder and Bill Clinton had lower first quarter averages than George W. Bush's 58%.

George W. Bush's Presidential Job Approval
by Quarter

Overall, George W. Bush averaged a 67% job approval rating for his first year in office, which is the 10th best yearly mark for presidents dating back to 1945. Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson all averaged better than 75%. However, in the last 35 years, only the senior George Bush, with a 69% approval rating in his third year in office, had a better year than did George W. Bush in 2001.

Top 15 Yearly Averages of
Presidential Job Approval

Year in Presidency

 

Average

 

Readings

Truman

Apr 20, 1945-Jan 19, 1946

First

77.3

3

Kennedy

Jan 20, 1961-Jan 19, 1962

First

76.4

15

Johnson

Oct 20, 1963-Jan 19, 1964

First

76.3

3

Johnson

Jan 20, 1964-Jan 19, 1965

Second

73.4

14

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1955-Jan 19, 1956

Third

72.1

15

Kennedy

Jan 20, 1962-Jan 19, 1963

Third

72.1

13

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1956-Jan 19, 1957

Fourth

71.9

13

Bush, Sr.

Jan 20, 1991-Jan 19, 1992

Third

69.5

40

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1953-Jan 19, 1954

First

68.8

14

George W. Bush

Jan 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002

First

67.1

33

Bush, Sr.

Jan 20, 1990-Jan 19, 1991

Second

66.8

32

Bush, Sr.

Jan 20, 1989-Jan 19, 1990

First

65.9

13

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1954-Jan 19, 1955

Second

65.4

16

Johnson

Jan 20, 1965-Jan 19, 1966

Second

65.4

18

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1959-Jan 19, 1960

Seventh

63.9

14

Bush's Year Above Average for First Year Presidents

Bush's 67% first year rating is slightly above the average first-year rating of 65% for the 11 presidents since Truman, and is the fifth best for a first year president since 1945. In the past, presidents' best years have tended to be the first year they were in office. As shown above, five of the top 10 yearly averages occurred during a president's first year in office. Two of these presidents -- Truman and Johnson -- took office after the death of their predecessors, which may have been related to their high first-year ratings.

First Year Average Job Approval Ratings, Truman to Bush

President

Dates

Average

Readings

Truman

Apr 20, 1945-Jan 19, 1946

77.3

3

Kennedy

Jan 20, 1961-Jan 19, 1962

76.4

15

Johnson

Oct 20, 1963-Jan 19, 1964

76.3

3

Eisenhower

Jan 20, 1953-Jan 19, 1954

68.8

14

George W. Bush

Jan 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002

67.1

33

Bush

Jan 20, 1989-Jan 19, 1990

65.9

13

Carter

Jan 20, 1977-Jan 19, 1978

61.8

26

Nixon

Jan 20, 1969-Jan 19, 1970

61.4

20

Reagan

Jan 20, 1981-Jan 19, 1982

57.1

20

Ford

Jul 20 1974-Jan 19, 1975

51.1

9

Clinton

Jan 20, 1993-Jan 19, 1994

49.3

29

Bush's Current Rating

Bush begins 2002 still enjoying wide support from the public. His current rating of 83% represents a slight decline from his high of 90%, and is tied for the 19th highest job approval score Gallup has recorded since 1938. Currently, Bush enjoys a 98% approval rating among Republicans, 81% among independents and 69% among Democrats.

Bush was able to stay within five points of his 90% high mark for an unprecedented 16 weeks. Previously, Lyndon Johnson outdid all other presidents by staying within five points of his 79% high mark for seven weeks. Bush now holds 10 of the top 14 approval ratings in Gallup polling history.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,008 adults, 18 years and older, conducted January 11-14, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 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.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

 

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       
 

%

%

%

(NA) 2002 Jan 11-14

83

13

4

       

(NA) 2002 Jan 7-9

84

12

4

(NA) 2001 Dec 14-16

86

11

3

(NA) 2001 Dec 6-9

86

10

4

(NA) 2001 Nov 26-27

87

8

5

(NA) 2001 Nov 8-11

87

9

4

(NA) 2001 Nov 2-4

87

9

4

(NA) 2001 Oct 19-21

88

9

3

(NA) 2001 Oct 11-14

89

8

3

(NA) 2001 Oct 5-6

87

10

3

(NA) 2001 Sep 21-22

90

6

4

(NA) 2001 Sep 14-15

86

10

4

(NA) 2001 Sep 7-10

51

39

10

(NA) 2001 Aug 24-26

55

36

9

(NA) 2001 Aug 16-19

57

34

9

(NA) 2001 Aug 10-12

57

35

8

(NA) 2001 Aug 3-5

55

35

10

(NA) 2001 Jul 19-22

56

33

11

(NA) 2001 Jul 10-11

57

35

8

(NA) 2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

52

34

14

(NA) 2001 Jun 11-17

55

33

12

(NA) 2001 Jun 8-10

55

35

10

(NA) 2001 May 18-20

56

36

8

(NA) 2001 May 10-14

56

31

13

(NA) 2001 May 7-9

53

33

14

(NA) 2001 Apr 20-22

62

29

9

(NA) 2001 Apr 6-8

59

30

11

(NA) 2001 Mar 26-28

53

29

18

(NA) 2001 Mar 9-11

58

29

13

(NA) 2001 Mar 5-7

63

22

15

(NA) 2001 Feb 19-21

62

21

17

(NA) 2001 Feb 9-11

57

25

18

(NA) 2001 Feb 1-4

57

25

18



(NA) – National adult

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