Obama’s Elevator is Going D O W N

By Neil Newhouse and Lisa Valentine

Barack Obama started his term as president with one of the higher initial presidential approval ratings in recent history (64% according to Pew).  However, his approval score has fallen further and faster than any elected US President since the era of modern polling.  (Just so you know, I am defining modern polling as starting with President Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.)

Obama’s approval rating has dropped thirteen points during his first six months in office (from 64% in February to 51% in August).  This ties him with Bill Clinton for the largest drop off in the first six months of any of the last six presidents.  But, more than half of Clinton’s slippage occurred over the first two months of his presidency (remember “Zoe Baird” and “gays in the military”?), whereas the bulk of Obama’s slippage (10 points) has occurred over the last three months.

(Note to reader: Not only has President Obama’s approval score fallen from the post-inaugural heights, but current data shows that his “strong disapprovers” outnumber his “strong approvers” – underscoring the intensity of the sentiment moving against him.)

What’s caused Obama’s quick descent?  In a nutshell, there’s been a lot of spinning of wheels and burning rubber, but no perceived progress.  The mood of the country is no more positive, Americans don’t believe they’ve felt the impact of the economic stimulus package, and they have become increasingly skeptical of Obama’s “big government spending” response to the nation’s challenges.

The data is pretty clear, and the August recess/vacation has apparently done little to soften voter attitudes regarding the direction that President Obama is leading the country.

Presidential Approval
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/1/2009 64 17 19 47
3/15/2009 59 26 15 33
4/1/2009 61 26 13 35
4/15/2009 63 26 11 37
6/15/2009 61 30 9 31
7/15/2009 54 34 12 20
8/15/2009 51 37 11 14
*Dropped 13 points in approval in first 6 months
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/19/2001 53 21 26 33
4/22/2001 55 27 17 28
5/20/2001 53 32 15 21
6/17/2001 50 34 17 16
7/22/2001 51 32 17 20
8/1/2001 50 32 18 17
*Dropped 3 points in approval in first 6 months
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/23/1993 56 25 19 31
4/4/1993 49 29 22 20
5/2/1993 45 37 18 8
5/27/1993 39 43 18 -3
8/1/1993 39 46 15 -7
9/15/1993 43 43 14 0
*Dropped 13 points in approval in first 6 months
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/5/1989 55 12 33 43
3/13/1989 56 16 28 40
4/16/1989 58 16 26 42
5/7/1989 56 22 22 34
6/2/1989 63 18 19 45
7/9/1989 67 18 14 49
8/27/1989 64 18 18 46
*Improved by 9 points in approval in first 6 months
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/2/1981 51 14 36 37
3/16/1981 59 24 16 35
4/13/1981 67 19 14 48
5/11/1981 68 21 12 47
6/22/1981 59 29 13 30
7/20/1981 60 29 11 31
8/3/1981 59 28 12 31
8/17/1981 60 30 11 30
*Improved by 9 points in approval in first 6 months
Date Approve Disapprove DK/Ref D/s
2/21/1977 71 9 20 62
3/7/1977 70 9 21 61
3/28/1977 72 10 18 62
4/18/1977 63 17 19 46
5/2/1977 63 18 18 45
6/6/1977 62 20 18 42
7/11/1977 62 22 16 40
8/8/1977 60 23 17 37
*Dropped 11 points in approval in first 6 months
* Data for Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton is from Pew Research Center.
* Data for George H. W. Bush, Reagan, and Carter is from Gallup.
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