Commentary Magazine


Obama Rivals Carter for Worst Approval Ratings

Obama is getting down to the wire. There is a strong historical correlation between where a president’s approval ratings are around this point in his presidency, and whether he goes on to win a second term. And yet there’s no indication that Obama’s approval ratings are improving. In fact, Gallup finds that his 11th quarter numbers are the worst of Obama’s presidency–as well as the worst of any recent president except Jimmy Carter:

Only one elected president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, had a lower 11th quarter average than Obama. Carter averaged 31% during his 11th quarter, which was marked by a poor economy and high energy prices. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were the only other post-World War II presidents whose job approval averages were below 50% in their 11th quarter in office.

According to Gallup’s analysis, “an incumbent president’s 12th- and 13th-quarter averages give a strong indication of whether he will win a second term.” So the crucial test is whether Obama can perk up his approval ratings between now and January.

Ed Morrissey comments that Obama’s class-warfare strategy probably won’t help him in this regard. At least not if the 11th quarter is any indication:

This includes at least six weeks of polling after Obama’s decision to strike a much more populist, class-warfare tone in Washington, a strategy that undoubtedly at least inspired the Occupy movement, if not explicitly coordinated with that effort.  There is no particular reason for such a sharp dropoff in approval otherwise — no big economic setback, no significantly bad outcome militarily or diplomatically, either.

It will be interesting to see if these numbers prompt the Obama campaign to rethink its current tactics, or whether it will continue the anti-rich rhetoric full steam ahead. Either way carries a risk. Democrats opened a Pandora’s box by encouraging the Occupy Wall Street movement, and if Obama turns on them now he could find himself the target of his very energized–and organized–base. On the other hand, there is a sense that time is running out for Obama to boost his approval ratings to a safe level for reelection.