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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.

Jimmy Carter

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.

Barack Obama

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.

Bill Clinton

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.

Ronald Reagan

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting But That Was Then and This Is Now (0+ / 0-)

    Every election cycle as with economic cycles, there will be many shouting that this time is different, we are in a new era, whatever.

    The past always weighs on the present and even the future but it does seem to me we are in a transition period with politicians trying mightily to dam the tides of change.

    The fight against global warming has been all but abandoned with clean [heh heh] coal and the clean [heh heh] new "non-fossil fuel" natural gas.  Unemployment is still very high and higher elsewhere.  A torrent of money is flooding into politics, many more may yet be disenfranchised and only a few lonely and largely ignored voices like Krugman chant "depression" which I think aptly describes a credit crunch as opposed to an inventory adjustment characterizing recessions.

    I am not real sure it even matters who wins the presidency though admittedly the specter of Romney is most unpleasant.

    Best,  Terry

    •  I'm not convinced that torrent of money (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LI Mike

      is going to make all that much difference -- although the Romney people appear to be banking on it...

      For example, this 2005 article from Political Science Quarterly studying the effect of advertising in the 2001 British parliamentary election concluded:

      for nonpartisan voters, ‘attack’ advertising appears to have been less effective than ‘advocacy’ advertising. Indeed, in the UK in 2001 there were contexts in which negative campaigning was explicitly counter-productive in the sense that it appears to have actively stimulated sympathy for the target of the attack rather than strengthening the relative position of the sponsor.
      A 2007 paper presented at the American Political Science Association likewise reported:
      Even when the persuasive effect of ads on candidate preference is large, as it often is, 80 to 90 percent of the effect dissipates within two or three days.  Along with other recent evidence, this tentative finding undermines the view that American voters are persuaded by information that accumulates during long campaigns and suggests instead the importance of tactical maneuvers by candidates to dominate the airwaves at the very end of campaigns.
      Goldstein and Ridout's conclusion from 2004 still appears on target to me:
      We argue that scholars still have a long road to travel before being able to speak definitively about whether and to what extent political advertisements are successful in achieving the goal of their sponsors: winning elections.

      Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
      ¡Boycott Arizona!

      by litho on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 12:36:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Would Love to Believe Money Has Little Influence (0+ / 0-)

        in elections but I think it is most difficult for most politicians to defeat an opponent with a vastly greater cash advantage.

        Some people may remember years ago when Diane Feinstein, already an established powerhouse political figure in California was challenged by a creepy, no-name, far rightwinger with a ton of money and appeared in some considerable danger.

        After one term in the House, [Michael] Huffington spent $28 million dollars in a bid for a seat in the United States Senate in 1994. In the Republican primary, he defeated William E. Dannemeyer. At the time, Huffington's was the most expensive campaign in a non-presidential election in American history. Huffington lost in the general election by 1.9 percent of the vote to Dianne Feinstein
        That wasn't exactly Feinstein's usual landslide victory.  Huffington had already knocked off a powerful Republican opponent.

        I fear you have to live on a different sphere to believe money isn't a powerful influence in politics.

        Best,  Terry

        •  Yeah, but it was also (0+ / 0-)

          1994, and it's not just that 1994 was a terrible Democratic year--this is only six years after George H.W. Bush carried CA with 51.1% of the vote compared to his national 53.4%.  Bill Clinton got 43% of the vote nationally, and 46% in CA.  

          CA was like a D+2 or D+3 state in 1994, strange as it may seem.  It's entirely reasonable for a Senator in a D+2 or D+3 state to have a tough re-election in a year like 1994, especially one without much incumbency, although certainly many Senators did better, and it surely mattered that she was seriously challenged.

          Anyway, Feinstein only scored 54.3% in 1992, and only got 45.8% against Pete Wilson in 1990.  Her vote share declined by 7.6 points in between 1992 and 1994--again, you should probably account for incumbency, but the national Dem house vote declined by 5.2 points between 1992 and 1994.

          26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude, CT-04(originally), PA-02/NY-14 (formerly PA-02/NY-12).

          by Xenocrypt on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 10:15:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  In the past, there was also no 'Constant News' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scott Campbell

    It's hard to remember for people today, but there was none of the constant bombardment of media, news coverage, teh interwebs, propaganda and lies available 24/7 like there is today. I don't believe there will ever be another President who will be able to have more than a 50% approval due to this constant scrutiny and criticism. So Obama's 46-48% is realistically pretty good.

    Romney 2012 - Contents under extreme pressure. Do not puncture or throw into fire. Use in a well-ventilated area. If sprayed in eyes, immediately flush with water. Should not be handled by women. Keep out of reach of children.

    by Fordmandalay on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 08:00:20 AM PDT

  •  Good work here. (0+ / 0-)

    And thanks for commenting in my diary.

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