Analysis: Obama's second year is the most polarizing since Eisenhower
February 4th, 2011
01:03 PM ET
4 years ago

Analysis: Obama's second year is the most polarizing since Eisenhower

Washington (CNN) - Which president, in recent history, had the most polarizing second year in office?

The answer: President Obama, according to a fresh analysis.

Gallup compared Obama's second year approval numbers – from January 2010 to January 2011 – against figures from the second year of other presidents. It reports that an average of 81 percent of Democrats approved of the president, while only 13 percent of Republicans approved, on average. That's a 68 percentage point gap in party ratings - higher than the gap faced by any other president in his second year.

That 68 point figure is a record for a president's second year, but it is well behind the all-time record set by George W. Bush in 2004, his fourth year in office. During that year, Bush's approval rating among Republicans was 91 percent on average, compared to only 15-percent among Democrats. That works out to a 76 point party gap - still the highest Gallup has recorded since 1953.

Bush, in fact, remains the most polarizing president in history, holding the top three slots in Gallup's analysis. The amount of polarization in 2004, 2005, and 2006 - his fourth, fifth and sixth years in office - was over 70 percentage points each time. His second year in office, 2002, was relatively free from partisan differences due to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

"The Gallup analysis may reflect the partisan nature of the American public rather than any judgment on either Bush or Obama," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"If you look at Gallup's table, the top six years with the highest rates of polarization all come in the past eight years, between 2004 and 2010. Does that say something about the way Bush and Obama governed the country, or something about the country itself?"


Filed under: Polls • President Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    The onlypolarization I see is the retags and the teabbagers. The President is trying to do what he promised he would do. Probably one of the many reasons we elected him.
    If only those obstructionists would get out of their way!!!!!!!

    February 4, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Patchw3rk

    Maybe this has more to do with the increasing popularity of certian cable news networks that also seem to be increasing in their bias.

    February 4, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Liz the First

    This is because there are so many people out there brainwashed by Faux Noise and the other zombie masters into believing that good is bad and what's good for the robber barons is good for the country. those of us with functioning brains realize what a great job Obama is doing and see the country gradually recovering under his good guidance. it's a terrible tragedy that so many people are so fooled by the 'right' that they gave even one more republican a chance to harm this country any more than they did during Bush's 8 disastrous years.

    February 4, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Clyde

    This says way more about Republicans than it does the President. That over 90% of the Republican electorate approved of Bush is an indication of how "my way or the highway" Republicans have become. Its sad but the small government/fiscal responsibility republican party of my parents is now gone and an extreme Nazi like party has taken over ruled by hate and fear.

    February 4, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Don

    I wish you would include some analysis of why the polarization is so high. It's not "the way Obama governed the county", as you suggest at the end of the article.

    Look to the Republican narrative over the last 2 years. "Number one priority is a 1 term president." "You'll never see any cooperation from us again." (McCain after PPACA passed the Senate.) "No you can't." "Dearth panels." "Job killing health care bill."

    Look to the Repiublican behavior in the Senate – virtually every bill and every presidential appointment was filibustered – even the non-controversial ones.

    Look to the media – especially Fox News and everything they have done to promte lies, hate and fear.

    Of course the country is polarized. It is a deliberate right wing strategy, and it is causing irreperable harm to the country.

    I wish you would include some analysis to back up and explain the superfical facts you reported in this artice.

    February 4, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. kat

    Who comes up with this garbage? This clown has been the biggest failure since Carter. What a joke.

    February 4, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. michaelam

    Perhaps if President Obama was 100% white instead of 50%, his approval ratings among the GOP would be higher.
    Why any woman or minority would vote GOP/Tea Bag/Bircher boggles my mind!

    February 4, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Chris - Denver

    I'm kind of surprised Ike was that polarizing, considering he was well to the left of our current president. Just goes to show you how far off into the right wing desert our country has wandered in the past half century.

    February 4, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    This should not be a shock to anybody with half a brain. Obama and the Democrats spent two years demonizing every business and industry in sight (except those he liked), attacking every group and person that opposed their policies and libelling ordinary Americans in the Tea Party. The looney left has essentially lost their mind because all of their grandiose government knows better and needs to spend trillions to fix it plans have all been FAILURES. So what else is left except to attack and demonize others to get the attention off their FAILURES?

    February 4, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    I can't imagine why? Let's ask Rush...

    February 4, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. gt

    obama gets 100% of the vote from blacks,and liberal left. the middle of the voters has left him and i dont think they will ever come back...

    February 4, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. malabar

    obama is a fraud

    February 4, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. OneMoreTime

    To answer your question, it means GW Bush, "the most polarizing President in history" was unqualified to be President
    due to arrogance, stubbornness, and just plain not capable. As for Obama, it means that the Republican Congress
    decided, day one, to bring him and his Administration down at any cost. They even said it. So the polarization comes
    from the party of "No", offering nothing to aid the healing of America, and they are still at it. Destroy, destroy,
    destroy. Yet, still no good answers nor solutions from them. Compromise is not in their vocabulary.

    February 4, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Annie, Atlanta

    I've never seen a president as hated as this one. They called the dislike of Bush some kind of derangement syndrome, but this goes way beyond that, into some pretty frightening territory. Why is it ok when we have a Democratic president for the right wing to get so militant and start killing people who don't share the same ideology? And why is it said over and over again on every news program, ad nauseum, that the left does it too? When is the last time we've heard of a liberal taking a shot at a politician? Or even carrying a weapon to a political rally. Please, enlighten me.

    February 4, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. JimII

    To support George W. Bush, one has to believe things that would otherwise be unbelievable. It requires denial about everything from scientific consensus to the moral questions surrounding torture. That will cause one to hate even a super centrist President like Obama; in the same way someone trapped in a dark room for eight years would be blinded by even a faint light.

    February 4, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. T'sah from Virginia

    [Does that say something about the way Bush and Obama governed the country, or something about the country itself?"]

    Something about the country itself – COLOR!! If President Obama was president during the 2001 WTC attacks – he will still be judged "differently"..........PERIOD!! I can see it now – all on the right will be stated that he does NOT know what he is doing and NOT gong about solving the problem the right way. ONE thing for sure, though, we would NEVER have gone to Iraq!!!!!!!!

    February 4, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. Odalice Feliz

    Obama is the best.......come on people help hi out. -Oda

    February 4, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. Jake

    most polarizing? maybe. ambitious? definitely! and one of the best presidents in modern history, most definitely! i approve!

    February 4, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Rsprings

    This polarization may be a function of the times but the Dems really contributed to it by their Partisan behavior during Obama's first two years.

    February 4, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  20. Jonathan

    Only CNN can take a poll about the divisivenss of our CURRENT president and turn it into a story about a PAST president. Good work CNN.

    February 4, 2011 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  21. Mark in CA

    So where are the numbers for Eisenhower?

    February 4, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. kyle from ohio

    It say more about the country and the people within the borders; a political distrust amoung the 2 party system

    February 4, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. Ace

    Thank you MR. President for actually caring for the middle class, one of the greatest commander-in- chiefs since President Kennedy(RIP), forward is better than backwards, republicans are liars, where are the jobs that the teatards promised? One last thing, senator mcconnell better start realizing that he is the MINORITY so STFU and let's start moving this country FORWARD! GO Obama 2012 for sure!

    February 4, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |