Tag Archives: George H. W. Bush

Obama Approval Ratings Reach Historic Lows

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.

Gallup Poll: Satisfaction with Government at All-time Low

The Gallup organization has been studying the American attitude toward the federal government for the past 40 years, yet their latest poll results have entered a new realm. In looking at data dating back all the way to 1971, at no time has the distrust of governmental institutions and elected leaders been lower than it is today.

According to their September 2011 survey, 81 percent of those sampled (Sept. 8-11; 1,017 adults; released Sept. 26) say they are dissatisfied with the way they are being governed, a record high for the 40 years that they have been testing such feelings and attitudes. Only 19 percent responded favorably to this question. The numbers began this seriously downward trend at the beginning of 2007 when the ratio was 31:67 percent positive to negative. Right after the 2010 election, the results improved to 44:56 percent, but then retreated soon after.

The only other era in modern political history when the trust numbers even approached the current levels was during Watergate and the Nixon resignation back in 1974. But, even then, the macro ratings were still better than they are today. At that time, 26 percent of the survey respondents reported being satisfied with the way they were being governed versus 66 percent who were dissatisfied.

Beginning in 1982, the negativity of the Watergate era dissipated and the number of respondents expressing confidence in the federal government reached parity with those who were dissatisfied. By the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term in 1984, the trust factor ventured into strongly positive territory (55:37 percent) and continued this consistent pattern all through the Reagan (second term), Bush, and Clinton presidencies, all the way to the conclusion of George W. Bush’s first term, and never varied by more than a few percentage points.

By the middle of the second Bush term, however, the public attitude toward government deteriorated and the trust factor has yet to rebound. In fact, now three-quarters of the way through President Obama’s first term, public trust in government has cratered to an almost unanimous negative impression.

Congress’ job approval has normally been below 50 percent since 1971 except for the period between 1998-2003 – streaming to an 84 percent positive impression right after the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, it too is reaching a record modern era low, spiraling down to the range of the 13th percentile.

From 1972 all the way through 2008, Americans said they had either a “great deal” or at least a fair amount of confidence in the men and women who held public office. After the beginning of the Obama Administration, however, these numbers, too, have trended seriously downward. Being no worse than 54:44 percent positive to negative during the entire aforementioned 36-year period, the public official confidence factor has now tumbled all the way to 31:69 percent, with the latter figure representing those saying they have “not very much” or no trust and confidence in elected office holders.

The Gallup results are codified by the results of the last three elections. The voting results in 2006, ’08, and ’10 represent the first time that Americans have expressed anti-incumbent sentiment at the polls during three consecutive elections. As the confidence factor continues to deteriorate, another anti-establishment wave could again emerge in 2012.

Obama’s Job Approval: A Cause for Concern

Presidential job approval ratings can fluctuate widely based on a rather wide variety of factors. Among these are the status of the economy, whether the U.S. is at peace or war, the presence of real or suspected scandal, etc.

While President Barack Obama’s administration has been free of any significant scandal, the U.S. is currently engaged in somewhere between two and three wars, and is suffering from a painfully slow-growing economy and a 9.2 percent unemployment rate.

While the President’s approval rating has generally fluctuated in a relatively narrow band that has ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-40s for the last two years, the trend in recent weeks has become troubling for Democrats seeking office in 2012.

Yesterday’s daily Gallup presidential approval tracking poll shows Obama’s job approval rating now slipping to 39 percent. The Gallup poll takes a rolling three-day average of opinions expressed by 1,500 adults nationally. The margin of error in the survey is +/- three percent.

While Obama continues to receive broad support from African-Americans, his approval rating among Hispanics and whites has lingered at record lows in the past two weeks. Gallup noted that Obama’s approval rating among postgraduates and high-income Americans has seen a particularly steep decline since the late May-early June time period, which was the last time his average weekly job approval rating registered at least 50 percent.

At this stage of his presidency, Obama’s standing with Americans doesn’t compare very favorably with other post-WW II presidents. At the 940 days in office mark (Aug 20), here is how Obama compares to the other Presidents, since Harry S. Truman when polling of this type began:

  • Obama                  40%    Standing for re-election in 2012
  • Truman                54%    Re-elected in 1948
  • Eisenhower        71%    Re-elected in 1956
  • Kennedy              62%    Assassinated in 1963
  • Johnson              48%    Did not seek re-election in 1968
  • Nixon                   49%    Re-elected in 1972
  • Ford                      53%    Defeated for election 1976 (polled at 857 days in office)
  • Carter                   32%    Defeated for re-election in 1980
  • Reagan                 43%    Re-elected in 1984
  • Bush, G.H.W.    59%    Defeated for re-election in 1992
  • Clinton                 46%    Re-elected in 1996
  • Bush, G.W.         59%    Re-elected in 2004

Only Jimmy Carter fared worse than President Obama at this point in the term. The average for the 12 presidents after 940 days in office (857 for Ford) is 47.8%. Thus, Obama is almost eight percentage points below average at this point in time.

The low approval numbers do not mean that the President is doomed to lose his re-election campaign. History shows us that Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were all below 50% approval but went on to win impressive re-election victories. In fact, historic landslides were even recorded for Nixon and Reagan. Conversely, two Presidents with some of the highest approval ratings, George H.W. and George W. Bush, both registering a strong 59% positive ranking at this commensurate time during their terms in office, did not fare as well in their re-election campaigns. As we know, George H.W. Bush was defeated for a second term, and his son won a close battle against a below average Democratic candidate.

While President Obama can certainly rebound and win a second term in office at the end of next year, the low approval ratings must be a cause for concern in his campaign camp. Watch for the President to make significant moves to improve his standing in the coming weeks.
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Campaign 2012 Officially Begins

Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party co-hosted a candidates’ debate last night at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., that surprisingly served as the official kick-off event for the 2012 presidential campaign. Though it was somewhat of a non-event because the candidates most pundits would describe as being first-tier were not in attendance, the so-called second-tier group did nothing to discourage their supporters and actually managed to motivate the audience on several occasions.

Of the five participants, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) repeatedly brought the crowd to cheers, particularly so when he answered a question about heroine legalization by saying ” … how many people here would do heroin if it was legal? I bet no one would, so why do we need the government to protect us?” The others who participated in the debate were businessman Herman Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

No one bungled a question but none of the participants particularly distinguished themselves either, with the exception of Dr. Paul on several questions and Mr. Cain in the final minutes of the debate. It is also probable that the eventual Republican presidential nominee was not part of this forum, but it is difficult to project just who that Republican winner will actually be, since all of the candidates are closely bunched. Polling shows no clear front-runner or individual capturing more than 20 percent support. Therefore, this may be the most wide-open campaign we have seen in the modern campaign era.

All of the contenders seemed to understand the key fundamental in contrasting themselves with Pres. Barack Obama, especially in light of the Osama bin Laden assassination. All of the candidates gave Obama due praise for his handling of the bin Laden mission, but then quickly pivoted to what they believe are the president’s shortcomings in his managing of the domestic agenda.

Though it is clear Mr. Obama has scored major political points for his action overseas and probably wouldn’t be defeated by anyone if the election were tomorrow, we don’t have to go too far back in history to prompt our memories and recall that foreign affairs victories are often short-lived and quickly crumble in significance when compared to the state of the domestic economy.

Two clear examples of this phenomenon occurred in 1945 and 1992:
• Winston Churchill, whose British Conservative Party was turned out of office in landslide proportions after successfully declaring a clear and stunning victory in World War II just a scant two months earlier.
• George H.W. Bush, who enjoyed 90% approval ratings after successfully guiding America in the Gulf War, only to lose his re-election just 10 months later, capturing a mere 37.5 percent of the national popular vote.

These results clearly show us that economics fundamentally trump foreign affairs.

For the Republicans to get back into the game against the president they will have to focus on the economy as the sole issue of the campaign and drive home their messages about the national deficit and debt, high food and gas prices, and the lack of job creation. It appeared that the five Republicans participating in last night’s debate fully understood this principle, but they and the other candidates have a very long way to go in a short time if the 2012 election is to become legitimately competitive anytime soon.
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The (Way Too) Early Line – Vulnerable or Not?

While it’s far too early to place any value on hypothetical match-ups in a presidential election that’s 18 months away, some preliminary polling numbers are starting to raise eyebrows and interest in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.

Some polls released into the public domain do little to enlighten or inform about public opinions because of small or meaningless sampling methodologies or survey techniques. Others, however, provide a snapshot of informed opinion that can influence future outcomes.

A question on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike is: “Is President Obama vulnerable in 2012?” Since the 1932 Great Depression era election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two incumbent presidents have been beaten by opposing candidates in a general election. Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush’s 1992 defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton stand out as the only two examples of incumbent presidents losing a November election during that time span. (Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal ended his 1968 re-election candidacy during the primary campaign.)

While Pres. Barack Obama continues to enjoy fairly high personal approval ratings from likely 2012 voters, his policy agenda doesn’t command the same level of support. In fact, looking at the trend line from the Rasmussen Reports tracking polls, conducted daily since the presidential inauguration, one sees that Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating has been under 50 percent every day since Feb. 18, while his disapproval score has consistently exceeded 50 percent post-Feb. 10.

These numbers might not mean much taken in and of themselves because Obama won’t be facing a “stay or go” plebiscite in November 2012. Instead, he will square off with a Republican challenger and, perhaps, an independent entry with a stark ideological bent.

During the month of March, Rasmussen conducted a series of presidential ballot test studies that included 10 different hypothetical GOP nominees. The comparison surveys all sampled at least 1,000 (and in some cases 2,000) likely voters and were conducted during the March 6-31 period. The sampling margin of error for surveys of 2,000 is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence; the error rate for surveys of 1,000 is +/- 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Interestingly, regardless of who becomes Obama’s Republican opponent, the data shows he garners support between 49 and 42 percent of the respondents. The match-ups project Arkansas former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be running dead even with the president (43-43 percent), while Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney trails 40-45 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is down 34-42 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lags behind by exactly that same percentage. As you have seen, all of the aforementioned Republicans trail by single-digit margins. GOP potential candidates down double-digits include: former vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (38-48 percent), Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (35-45 percent), Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (31-41 percent), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (37-49 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (32-45 percent), and businessman, newspaper columnist and Tea Party activist Herman Cain (25-43 percent).

At this early point in the election cycle, there are few definitive conclusions to draw from the president’s middling approval ratings and his less than dominant showing in these hypothetical horse races. However, there is also little to suggest that Mr. Obama will have the luxury of running a relaxed, Rose Garden re-election strategy either.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.