President Obama’s First Term Approval Ratings: A Comparative Analysis

February 22, 2010
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Barack Obama has dominated the airwaves and TV screens as he has risen, from a State Senator with an unlikely background, to the President of the United States. Some people consider him a spend-happy democrat or a socialist. Others think he is a young, energetic person with a drive for change. Although he is not a super left-winged socialist, he’s not an enterprising young man with a drive for change either. This can be seen in Obama’s approval ratings. According to the National Journal (2010), Obama has a 47% approval rating as of February 1st, 2010.
President Obama started his term in January of 2009 with an all-time high approval rating of 83% (Rasmussen, 2010). During the first year, the percentages plummeted to 47%. This is the second largest drop for a president in history; only outdone by Jimmy Carter’s rating of 75% dropping to 28% during his one term as President.
President’s Obama and Reagan’s approval ratings can also be compared in terms of averages for the first term. Obama’s 69.5% far exceeds President Reagan’s 46%, although Reagan received 489 electoral votes compared to Obama’s 365 electoral votes (Alexander, 2010). A historic number of people voted in the 2008 presidential election in which Obama reaped 52.9% of the popular vote compared to 50.7% for Reagan. President’s Carter, Reagan and Obama sustained steep drops in approval in their first terms (US Census Bureau, 2010). But was it for the same reasons?
There are several possible reasons for Obama’s drop in approval. His ratings can be associated with all the issues he is forced to address at this time in history. All these presidents had the heavy burdens of war although Reagan and Carter dealt with the Cold War. Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism are Obama’s active wars involving the sacrifice of America families and resources. Obama has also taken on healthcare, a huge deficit and an economy in its worst shape since The Great Depression (Sussman, 2010). It can be argued that Obama’s naiveté during his campaign, raising the country’s hopes higher than his ability to deliver, is at the crux of his approval plummet. All candidates embellish but, in Obama’s case, it may justify lost ratings based either on his quick start on too many major issues or his overdrawn focus per issue.
It is not unusual that a president’s approval rating drops in the first term as seen with President’s Carter and Reagan however, only time will tell if Obama’s ratings will improve dramatically in a second term like Reagan’s ratings or if he will be voted out like Carter. Despite the 53% who either agree or disagree with Obama, he is the President and we have to stand behind him. My grandfather used to say, “It is only because we live in America that we have the Constitutional right to agree or disagree with our leaders.”
From this point of view, President Obama’s fluctuating first term approval ratings are no different from any other president although it can be argued that his burdens are much greater.
Works Cited
Blumenthal, Mark "National Job Approval: Pres. Barack Obama." National Journal, 7 Jan. 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. <>.
Reports, Rasmussen. "Obama Approval Index History." Rasmussen Reports. Rassmusen, 09 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2010. <>.
Sussman, Dalia. "Poll: Obama’s Ratings on Health Care, Economy Drop Lower." Washington Post 12 Jan. 2010: 5+. Print.
United States. Census Bureau. US Census Bureau. By Robert M. Groves. U.S Government, 8 Jan. 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. <>
Alexander, Mark “Obama vs. Reagan” MSN, 23 Feb 2010. Web. 9 Feb 2010 <>

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