Obama’s Lake Wobegon approval ratings

I keep hearing people describe Pres. Obama as a “very popular” president. A Gallup analysis suggests that is a small exaggeration.

Obama’s average approval rating for May is 65 percent. This is fine. This is no cause for alarm. And, like all the children of Lake Wobegon, this is above average. But just barely.

Of the last eight presidents, this ties Pres. Obama for fourth place — with Jimmy Carter.

Presidents Kennedy (77 percent), Eisenhower (74) and Reagan (68) had higher approval ratings in May of their first year in office. Carter tied Obama at 65. Obama comes in ahead of Presidents Nixon (63), the first Bush (60), the second Bush (55) and Clinton (45!).

All of which tells me that it’s too soon to reach any conclusions. Look at the list and think about who was reelected and who wasn’t. Of course, JFK didn’t live to seek a second term, but of those who did, the highest rated (Eisenhower) and the lowest rated (Clinton) were both reelected by substantial margins.

By the way, Gallup also compared the first reactions to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court (47 percent rated the choice “excellent or good,” 33 percent said “only fair or poor” and 20 percent had no opinion) with the first public reactions to the last three court nominees.

Like the approval ratings of the man who chose her, Sotomayor’s ratings are above average, but nothing remarkable. First reactions to Pres. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts were slightly better, first reactions to Bush’s nominations of Samuel Alito and the subsequently withdrawn nomination of Harriet Miers were worse. But even the disastrous Miers nomination received more excellent or good ratings (44 percent) than fair or poor (41 percent).

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/29/2009 - 07:59 pm.

    One might argue that Kennedy (77 percent), Eisenhower (74) and Reagan (68) were before the current political polarization.
    I’m not sure that anyone is likely to get much above or below the 40-60% approval range in the current political climate.

  2. Submitted by John E Iacono on 05/31/2009 - 06:10 pm.

    It seems to me it might be useful to make a modified comparison:
    >Election win percentage;
    >Gallup Poll percentage;
    >subsequent re-election success.

    This might take into consideration the impact of our divided electorate.

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