Poll Numbers: Bush v Obama

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President Obama’s “approval rating” fell below 50% for the first time in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll on Tuesday. A dust up between press secretary Robert Gibbs and Fox News’ Major Garrett resulted in this comment from Gibbs:

“If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I’d visit my doctor,” Gibbs said in the morning, off-camera briefing with reporters. “Five days ago there was an eleven-point spread. Now there is a one-point spread. I’m sure a six-year-old with a Crayon could do something not unlike that.

Gibbs’ sensitivity is probably not helped by similar numbers from other polling organizations, which may not have crayons: Quinnipiac has Obama’s approval rating at 46% today. And there is no evidence that Obama’s approval rating slid 11 points in five days; certainly not in Gallup’s numbers.

But Gibbs can take comfort that today’s approval rating in the Gallup daily tracking poll is back up to 50%. Such is the nature of a daily tracking poll.

The reason the 50% number is significant is that most presidents don’t fall under that number in their first year in office. One notable exception: President Ronald Reagan. The most apparent similarity between the two is that both started their presidencies in the midst of a deep recession. (President Clinton’s approval rating was a similar 53% during his first year in office under similar economic conditions).

Presidential Approval during First Year

Historically, most presidents dip below 50% approval rating at some point in their presidency (JFK did not). What may be more surprising is the confidence expressed by a new poll by Public Policy Polling:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited.

I was unable to find similar polling data for past presidents; during Reagan’s unpopular first year, did people pine for the old days of the Carter administration?

The slippage in poll numbers is down three points among Democrats and seven points among independents:

In the new Dec. 4-6 Gallup Daily results, Obama’s approval rating is 14% among Republicans, 42% among independents, and 83% among Democrats. Compared to his ratings in early November, when he averaged 53% job approval overall, his ratings are down three points among Democrats, seven points among independents, and four points among Republicans.

Cross posted to FrankHagan.com