CNN Poll: How Obama stacks up against predecessors
December 20th, 2010
03:13 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: How Obama stacks up against predecessors

Washington (CNN) – As President Barack Obama ends his second year in office, a new national poll indicates that just under half of all Americans approve of the job he's doing in the White House, lower than most of his recent predecessors at the same time in their first term in office.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday, the public is split on how Obama has handled his duties, with 48 percent saying they approve and an equal amount saying they disapprove.

View the Full results (pdf)

President George W. Bush had an approval rating of 63 percent in December of 2002 - the end of his second year in office - as did his father, President George H.W. Bush, in 1990. The elder Bush lost his re-election bid two years later while his son was successfully re-elected in 2004 to a second term.

President Bill Clinton, whose party lost control of both houses of Congress in the first midterm election of his presidency, stood at 54 percent at the end of his second year in office at the end of 1994. Clinton went on to win re-election two years later.

Ronald Reagan, whose party also suffered major losses in his first midterm, had an approval rating of just 41 percent at the end of 1982, two years into his first term. Reagan rebounded to win a landslide re-election in 1984.

"An approval rating is a pretty unreliable indicator of the president's chances of getting re-elected, at least this far out from the next election," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In Obama's case, for example, a significant number of Americans disapprove of his track record because he has not been liberal enough. Those people may stay at home on election day in 2012, but they're probably not going to vote for a Republican. So the 48 percent who disapprove of Obama does not mean that 48 percent will vote against him two years from now."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 17-19, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN


Filed under: CNN Polls • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Orlando Patriot

    One thing for certain, Jimmy Carter is the one with the biggest smile as of late. He has just been replaced as the worst president in american history by Barack Hussein Obama. Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like a GENIUS!! It takes a REAL incompetent president to take over that title – enter Barack Hussein Obama. King of the incompetence!!

    December 20, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. John B. From Mass

    I'd say that to have half the country approving him now is incredible! None of these former presidents had to deal with "the great recession", and yet his approval sits at 50%. Hellova job president Obama! Don't let the repugs get u down.. as S.P. would say.. "don't retreat, reload!" HA!

    December 20, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. J-NW

    Allan Greenspan, a darling of the GOP's 'deregulation' crusade, said in 2008 – BEFORE OBAMA WAS HANDED THE MESS CREATED BY THE GOP, that America was heading into the worst recession in over 100 yrs. Within hours of Obama's inauguration, Rush Limbaugh referred to America's sorry economic predicament as "Obama's recession". And so the story goes. The GOP has hung this recession around Obama's neck and the media has not represented the blame fairly.. after all, the advertisers actually make the call as to content, and they want even more deregualation and tax breaks – exactly was caused this mess. So, what would you expect the shallow pond swing voters to believe? If the economy was booming, Obama would not be the fall guy. He'd be up around 70% approval (he'll never get above that because the confederacy would rather burn in hell then support someone of Obama's likeness. Obama has done extroidinarily well under the worst of circumstances.,

    December 20, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "An approval rating is a pretty unreliable indicator of the president's chances of getting re-elected"

    Posts relying on it in 3...2...1....

    December 20, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    This probably came as a surprise to a bunch of Democrats who still believe Obama defeated GWB in 2008. Seriously CNN, do a poll and report those results. Axelrod was a magician and a bunch of voters got tricked.

    December 20, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. J-NW

    Orlando.. real patriot? Here's a quiz.. Saddam was responsible for attack on 9/11. True/false We found WMD in Iraq. True/false. A real patriot will proceed to kill innocent people before he has heard the facts (sorry FOX News and Rush Limbaugh are not purveyors of factual information) True/false. So, where are you celebrating SC secession aniversary?

    December 20, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  7. thor

    Obama has to be one of the most incompetent presidents in the history of our great nation.He was not prepared for the great challenges that he faced and it has shown.

    December 20, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. p

    Orlando Patriot is a joke!
    Not crazy about black people, are you?
    Too bad, cause this POTUS will be around another 6 years.

    December 20, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. S. In California

    Well, did you ask this question of the others? I thought not. President Obama is HIS OWN MAN. Why should he be compared to anyone else. What a disgraceful question.

    December 20, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  10. malabar

    Has he healed the planet yet? hahaha, what a God complex that fraud has. at least the liberal part of his presidency is over. never have i known so many people switch sides as did this november. thank you barry

    December 20, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    So again, we have a poll that means nothing to most people. Looking at the past Presidents, G W Bush was kept ignorant of the polls by the teams of Cheney and Rove (how else would he consider a 50.5% majority to be a landslide); Clinton was a weather vane as far polls went, such was the career of the "Comeback Kid"; G H W Bush understood the polls but considered himself to be above them; Reagan recognized that bad polls meant he had to get on TV and talk to the people (he may not have been the most intelligent of the post WW2 crop, but he recognized the Charm factor could improve his numbers); Carter faced the poll numbers with righteous indignation and did what the thought he should, much to the chagrin of his entire staff!

    December 20, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. Kenneth of Minneapolis

    If you ranked Moses, Paul and Abraham as the most deserving order, who would be last?.......Point, if we rank, someone will have to be last.

    December 20, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. Chris in Charleston

    This man can't catch a break. Hardest working president in forty years. CNN, shame on you.

    December 20, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Bob in PA

    It's hard to conceive that someone would de-seat Jimmy at the bottom of the pile, but BO is attempting to do it.

    December 20, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. kayla

    green with envy i see. well, too bad. get over it, because the prez. has another 6 yrs. love you mr. president.

    December 20, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  16. Democrats Class Warfare - Destroying the economy and country

    Hmmmm.... Performance rating: ABYSMAL, UNMITIGATED DISASTER, INCOMPETENT

    The reality is that the ONLY thing holding his ratings in the 40's at this point is the unwavering support of blacks in the USA. No matter how bad this clown is, they will always rate him well. It totally skews the numbers. He's likely in the 30s without this biased, race-based level of support.

    December 20, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. GuyinVA

    Posts implying that President Obama's detractors racists in 3...2..., oh never mind. Thanks J-NW and P.

    December 20, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. John

    It is amazing to me that the Republicans have never been held to account for stampeding our country to war on the basis of lies. But the Republican officeholders seem to be utterly shameless, and their cheerleaders in these comment strains seem even worse.

    December 20, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. anthony

    And when all is SAID AND DONE.. his accomplishments will far out weigh all the nay sayers, doubters, and propagators of hate and lies. When he hasnt taken this country to war for the wrong reasons, hasnt helped collapse our financial system and home lending, and hasnt given a tax break to his rich buddies at the expense of the poor.. then we'll let the actual factual events do the talking for him. When you scream water is dry on day one, and he proves water is wet by his last day.. then lets hear your comments...

    December 20, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. Four and More

    President Obama will continue to do fine. President Reagan did well even with lower numbers at the same point.

    BTW "Orlando Pat" & "thor," many Americans rate most incompetent to President Bush, diverting our valuable resources to an unnecessary war based on unsubstantiated evidence. Sorry, that's clearly the worst.

    December 20, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Virginia Nielsen in FLORIDA

    My Prez has been HEROIC considering all that was left from the last admnistration, A MESS !!! Only the crazy "right wings" can't see the stable performance of this very intelligent and well prepared man. Keep the good work ! God bless the USA !!!

    December 20, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. Charles

    "President Bill Clinton, whose party lost control of both houses of Congress in the first midterm election of his presidency, stood at 54 percent at the end of his second year in office at the end of 1994."

    This is a lie. How long does it take to fact check at CNN. Tool me 30 seconds.

    From Gallop:
    Clinton's approval ratings:

    94 Dec 28-30:

    approve – 40
    disapprove – 52
    no opinion – 8

    December 20, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. Alimi

    Obama out-polled GOP archangel Ronald Reagan 48 to 41 at this point of their respective presidencies? Well done dude

    December 20, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. Republicans suck

    You know President Obama is doing a good job is Republicans are whining and complaining and calling President Obama names. Either that or they're closet racists

    December 20, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. MarkieBee

    to Dems calls warfare...yeah, that 12 percent of the population sure is skewing the polls of other 88 percent. I bet you are the poster child for that poll last week that empirically showed that Fox News watchers are the most uninformed and misinformed citizens in this nation.

    December 20, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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