While the attention of most political observers and pundits has been on the extremely volatile multi-candidate contest for the Republican presidential nomination, little attention has been paid to the standing of the certain Democratic standard-bearer, President Barack Obama.
Polling by the Gallup organization, which has been tracking presidential approval ratings since the administration of Harry S. Truman, suggests that President Obama’s approval rating is lower than each of his eleven most recent predecessors at a comparable time in their presidencies. This statistic includes: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who were either not reelected or, in the case of Ford, never elected.
For the week ending Dec. 4, Obama’s approval rating stood at 42 percent, down one percent from his historically low November rating of 43 percent. The President’s disapproval rating currently stands at 50 percent, up one point from last week’s number. Again, all of these numbers are according to Gallup. Obama will need to improve his approval rating considerably during the rest of December in order to avoid numbers that are sure to initiate jitters among congressional Democrats and others sharing the ballot with him in 11 months.
The following chart provides an illustration of the presidential approval rates at the commensurate time in office (December of third year in office):
President Year Average approval
Eisenhower 1955 75
Nixon 1971 50
Carter 1979 53
Reagan 1983 54
Bush ’41 1991 51
Clinton 1995 51
Bush ’43 2003 54
Obama 2011 42 (through December 6)
As you can see, public approval ratings at the end of the third year of an incumbent’s presidency does not necessarily dictate his re-election result. For example, Presidents Carter (53 percent) and Reagan (54 percent) had virtually identical numbers at the end of their third year in office, but their election results one year later, as we all know, were starkly different. The same was true for Presidents Bush and Clinton, who both scored an identical 51 percent in the December preceding the election. But, Obama’s anemic 42 percent positive rating is far below any of his predecessors. It is too early to tell, however, whether or not this number will prove to be a precursor to defeat.