Obama’s Low Approval Ratings

December 13th, 2009

By Tom Carter

ObamaApprovalPresident Obama’s approval ratings have been constantly falling, according to most major polls.  Real Clear Politics does an excellent job of pulling all the polls together and averaging them, providing better numbers than any one poll taken in isolation. 

The polling calculations presented today by Real Clear Politics are interesting and should be causing some worry among Democrats. 

In one interactive RCP chart, you can select tabs to see specific poll results:

  • President Obama Job Approval

The RCP Average for public opinion about how the President is doing his job shows 48.8 percent approval, 45.3 percent disapproval.  This is among the lowest ratings for modern presidents at this point in their first administrations.  The others in this range are Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  According to a CNN report,

Obama is not the first president to drop below 50 percent in his first year in the White House. President Reagan’s approval rating dipped to 49 percent in November 1981 and stayed below that mark for two years. President Clinton also dropped well below the 50 percent mark by May 1993, the fastest fall on record. 

  • Congressional Job Approval

The people think even less of Congress than they do of the President — 28.8 percent approval, 63.3 percent disapproval.  These are interesting statistics but don’t really mean much.  As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once observed, “All politics is local.”  The interesting fact is that voters who express strong disapproval of Congress as a whole often strongly support their own representative and senators.  So to get the attention of members of Congress, they have to see falling support for them personally in their districts or states.  This is what’s happening to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada right now.

  • Generic Congressional Vote

It’s even less clear what this one really means — it asks voters who they prefer to see win, with the choices being only by party.  The RCP Average is 44.2 percent for Republicans, 43.4 percent for Democrats.  But back again to Tip O’Neill — stating a general party preference is one thing, actually voting for the incumbent in your district is another.

  • Obama and Democrats Health Care Plan

This should really get the attention of the President and Democrats in Congress — 37.8 percent for, 52.7 percent against.  However, they don’t seem to be listening to what the people want.  Some of them will pay a price for that.

These low levels of public approval are most likely the result of a presidential campaign based on vague promises of hope and change, compared to the results of almost a year of governing in the swamps of Washington.  Democrats are up to their knees in the muck, trying to wriggle out of it as best they can.  But the odds don’t look good for the President and his Party — watered-down health care reform that a significant majority of the people doesn’t like, an energy bill (cap-and-trade) that’s likely going nowhere, weak and spotty economic recovery, a serious false start at the Copenhagen climate conference, and, worst of all, the President’s wrongheaded decision on Afghanistan.

After Obama was elected, I was optimistic that he would rise to the challenges of the presidency, lead his party well, and do a good job for the country.  Like most of the people in these polls, I’m having serious doubts.


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7 Responses to “Obama’s Low Approval Ratings”



  1. Brianna |

    I know that one of the major things about Reagan was that interest rates were at 15-20% during his first couple of years in office. Volcker was doing the hard work of sucking all those extra dollars out of circulation that had been lying around all throughout the seventies, which was sort of like forcing the nation to go under chemo. It worked, but that didn’t make it fun. I have no clue why people didn’t like Clinton at first though.


  2. Adam |

    I’m not surprised at all – there’s no way he could have kept it up.

    This is why the Democrats need to pass their agenda now and not wait. They won’t have this sort of majority again in at least a decade.


  3. Lisa |

    It is all about understanding what is important and having a vision as to how it should play out. Personal agendas such as healthcare should not take precedence over critical issues such as job creation and the economy affecting the people of this country. Improving the economy and creating jobs means lowering taxes, putting healthcare on a back burner for now, thereby giving businesses a warm fuzzy feeling about hiring and prospering. The healthcare debacle and its attendant higher taxes, etc leave businesses in a lurch and prosperity a risky venture. The company CEO feels no differently than a family out trying to do Christmas shopping right now. Let’s not spend anything right now because we have to save to pay taxes for the impending healthcare entitlement package that may be implemented a few years from now. Barack Obama just doesn’t get it. His judgment is not sound and he has no inherent leadership skills. People have stopped listening to him because they now realize he does nor speak from the heart but rather from a script.


  4. Carl |

    The economy and the war is what is proving to hurt Obama in the polls. I think it is also that he is trying too much to play it in the middle. He is not forceful enough in asserting his agenda one way or the other. This angers people on the left and the right. He may as well govern from the left from now on as he will never satisfy conservatives.


  5. Tom |

    Lisa, I fear that you’ve hit the nail on the head. The only thing I would add is the energy bill (cap-and-trade). While it has little chance of passing any time soon, people can see that along with health care reform and huge spending on doubtful economic recovery programs, the course the government is following is going to hurt them. They also remember Obama’s oft-repeated promise that there would be no increase in taxes for 95 percent of the people. Whether it’s called a tax, higher energy bills, higher insurances premiums, whatever — it’s all money, and people know when they’re being fleeced.

    People are also going to be increasingly unhappy with the war in Afghanistan. As the Administration continues to muddle through their confusing definitions of what the strategy really means, and as casualties and costs mount, support for the President and his Party will continue to decline.

    I don’t see anything on the horizon that will help them climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.


  6. Lisa |

    Tom, I agree and quite frankly we could write a book at this point. The energy bill will affect many of us who own homes. As I understand it, our homes will have to be certified as being energy efficient and will be inspected when we want to sell them. With energy appliances having been around for about 10 years now, that does not pose too much of a problem. It is when you are told you have to replace the siding, windows, roof and have the chimney rebuilt prior to selling your house that people will realize the degree to which they are personally affected. People will decide it is too much trouble to own a home and we will all be living in little apartments, perhaps even government owned apartments. Does that sound familiar?


  7. RandyCox |

    I don’t know why people expected so much out of Obama. He had very little experience. Bush had very little experience. When you hire someone to work on your car, you don’t car what side of the car they work on.

    You just need them to know what they are doing.

    America elected two inexperienced presidents in a row. Both sides played a part in the mess we are in now.


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