Obama’s approval ratings aren’t as rosy as they seem

I opened up my Google News page this morning to see the following headline:

After 100 days, Obama's approval ratings remain sky-high (CNN)

This contrasts with an article I recall reading a few days ago which talks about how Obama’s approval ratings are not sky-high when compared to past presidents at the 100-day mark.

First, what is President Obama’s approval rating? The folks at Gallup poll this stuff constantly, and have an article that tells us:

As President Barack Obama concludes his first 100 days on the job, Gallup Poll Daily tracking for the week of April 20-26 finds 65% of Americans approving of how he is doing and only 29% disapproving. Obama’s average weekly job ratings have varied only slightly thus far, ranging from 61% to 67%.

We’ll take 65% approval and 29% disapproval as our President Obama benchmarks.

For historical comparison, we have the American Presidency Project, which provides a chart of Presidential job approval ratings at or near the 100-day mark. Note the chart below, which I have taken the liberty to highlight.

Presidential Job Approval Ratings Following the First 100 Days

See those green boxes? Those are presidents who showed a higher approval rating and lower disapproval rating after 100 days than President Obama. The yellow box highlights President George W. Bush’s approval/disapproval ratings after 100 days – an approval rating three percentage points lower than President Obama, and an identical disapproval rating.

What can we surmise from this?

  • Taken in historical context, the public approves of President Obama at a level typical of most presidents.
  • Taken in historical context, the public disapproves of President Obama at a level typical of most recent presidents – that is, those since the Reagan/Bush years.
  • Feelings about our President are much more polarized in recent years, with lower approval and higher disapproval numbers than past presidents.

And now, the best conclusion: Only three presidents had a lower approval rating 100 days into their first term of office than they had on their first day in office.

  1. Jimmy Carter (started with 66%, fell to 63%)
  2. William J. Clinton (started with 58%, fell to 55%)
  3. Barack Obama (started with 68%, fell to 65%)

Which presidents saw the greatest increase in approval rating between their first day and their 100th day?

  1. Ronald Reagan (51% to 68%)
  2. John Kennedy (72% to 83%)

I will tell you this: it is not reassuring to know that, at least in this one area, that President Obama is trending more like Jimmy Carter than Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton than John Kennedy.

It is also not reassuring to know that CNN and the Gallup folks are drinking the Obama Kool-Aid… but I don’t expect much different from them.