Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bush's 38% Job Approval Rating in Context

A friend who works for the Gallup Organization forwarded me this email. I don't believe there is anything top secret in this analysis.

Bush’s 38% Job Approval Rating in Context
By Frank Newport and Jeffrey Jones

There’s a lot of talk about President Bush’s current job approval rating – which is at 38% in our latest Gallup poll. But exactly what does this mean? How bad is a 38% rating?

Our Gallup Poll history of asking this presidential job approval question goes back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt, stretching over the administrations of 12 presidents. We estimate that Gallup has asked Americans to rate the job their president is doing over 1200 times. These data provide a rich contextual database against which to compare and contrast George W. Bush’s current performance ratings.

  1. A 38% rating is well below average. The average job approval rating Gallup has measured across all presidents since Roosevelt has been 56%
  2. A 38% job approval rating is in the bottom 10th percentile of all ratings for all presidents in Gallup’s database
  3. All presidents in Gallup’s database averaged 40% or higher for their entire presidencies.
  4. Bush himself – despite the current low ratings – has averaged 58% so far in his presidency. His average is buoyed by the extraordinarily high ratings he received in the first term of his administration following 9/11, including a record high 90% single measurement.
  5. At the same time, a job approval rating in the 30% range is not unheard of. All but two presidents (JFK and Eisenhower) received at least one job approval rating below 40%, and four received ratings below 30%.
  6. The lowest job approval ratings in history were received by Harry Truman (23% and 24%) and Richard Nixon (24%).
  7. There have been six presidents other than Bush elected to a second term since World War II. Of these, only two have had lower ratings in February of their second year after being re-elected – Harry Truman (37%) in February 1950, and Richard Nixon (25%) in February 1974.
  8. Of the six two-term presidents, the second term averages were: Truman 35%, Eisenhower 60%, Johnson 50% , Nixon 34%, Reagan 55%, Clinton 61%. Bush’s second term average to date is 45%.
  9. Four of these six two-term presidents had lower second term averages than their first term, and Bush is on track to follow that pattern given his high 62% first term average. Two two-term presidents – Clinton and Reagan – had higher second term averages than first term averages.
  10. Of the six re-elected presidents, three received ratings in the 30% range at some point in their second terms (Truman, Johnson and Nixon). Three did not (Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton).
  11. None of these three second term president who received ratings in the 30% range (Truman, Johnson, Nixon) recovered substantially in the sense that his ratings pulled back up over 50% before he left office. Johnson got to exactly 50% at one point after he announced he was halting bombing in Vietnam and that he would not seek, nor would he accept, his party’s nomination for president.
  12. The parties of second-term presidents whose ratings fell into the 30% range also did not fare well in the next general election. Two of these presidents – Truman and Johnson -- had inherited the office after the death of a president, and were eligible to run for another term. Both -- Truman and Johnson -- made the decision not to seek re-election in the years after their low ratings. Their party lost the next election in both instances. The third two-term president whose ratings dropped into the 30% range in his second term – Nixon – resigned from office. His party too lost the next general election.
  13. Receiving ratings in the 30% range in one’s first term is not predictive of one’s re-election success. Three two-term presidents who received ratings in the 30% range in their first term recovered and were re-elected (Truman, Reagan and Clinton). But the other three two-term presidents who received ratings in the 30% range in their first term did not recover and were defeated in their bids for re-election (Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush).

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