With the start of summer, I thought this would be a good time to take stock of where the current presidential race stands by comparing Obama’s approval/disapproval ratings five months out from the election to the ratings of previous presidents at the same point in their re-election campaigns. I was particularly interested in seeing how the two presidents who failed to be re-elected since 1980 fared against Obama.
In the Gallup poll dated June 13-16, 1980, President Carter had a 32% approval rating and a 56% disapproval rating.
George H.W. Bush
In the Gallup poll conducted from June 12-14, 1992, President Bush had a 37% approval rating and a 55% disapproval rating.
In comparison, President Obama currently stands in the Gallup poll at 46% approval and 48% disapproval. Not great, but much better than his two losing predecessors.
So what about the presidents who won re-election in that time?
George W. Bush
In the Gallup poll from June 21-23, 2004, George W. Bush had a 48% approval rating and a 49% disapproval rating, slightly better than Obama’s but within the margin of error.
In the Gallup poll from June 18-19, 1996, Clinton was riding high with a 58% approval rating versus a 37% disapproval rating. No wonder he went on to win re-election in an electoral landslide.
In the Gallup poll from June 22-25, 1984, Reagan had a 54% approval rating and a 36% disapproval rating, leading to an electoral wipeout in the fall of epic proportions.
So what can we glean from all this information? Well, Obama is certainly doing better than his recent predecessors who did not win re-election and he is in a virtual tie with one who did. It also implies that we cannot expect any kind of electoral landslide comparable to either Reagan’s or Clinton’s if he is to be re-elected.
One additional caveat: last week, Nate Silver published an article looking at the “house effect” in certain polls (a house-effect is when a poll tends to lean towards one political party over another). He discovered that Gallup has been the most Republican-leaning of all the major polls in this electoral cycle, with an average of a 2.5% Republican favorability compared to the others (yes, even more than Rasmussen). Take that for what it’s worth, but it may be something worth considering.