After seeing his presidential approval rating plummet by roughly 20 percentage points during his first year in office, the question now is whether President Barack Obama may be able to fashion a comeback in 2010. If history is a guide, don’t bet on it.
A few presidents have seen their job approval rating go up during their first year in office.
But over the last half century, every newly elected president has lost ground during his second year – that according to the Gallup Poll, measuring presidential popularity from the end of the first year to the eve of the midterm election the following November.
The decline has ranged from 1 point for Richard Nixon in 1970 to 23 points for George W. Bush in 2002, whose approval rating had risen to stratospheric heights the previous fall in the wake of 9/11.
Other big second-year losses were 19 points for Lyndon Johnson in 1966, as the war in Vietnam heated up; 16 points for John F. Kennedy in 1962, whose initial year in office had largely been one extended honeymoon; and 13 points for George H.W. Bush in 1990, who by that fall had famously gone back on his 1988 campaign promise: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”
The saving grace for Obama is that he has already taken on an array of difficult issues – led by health care reform – and is poised to tackle economic problems that have greater resonance with American voters.
His support, while at 50% overall, remains strong among Democrats (84%) and competitive among independents (47%), according to a Gallup Poll taken within the last week.
And Obama’s whole career on the national stage has been built on making history. Certainly a second-year spurt in popularity – while unique - would fit that mold.