- Massachusetts and Hawaii most approving of Obama in 2014
- Fewer than one in five in Wyoming approved of Obama
- Strong regional patterns persist in Obama's ratings
This story is part of Gallup's annual "State of the States" series, which reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, religion and well-being measures.
PRINCETON, N.J.-- Residents of five states gave President Barack Obama 50% or better job approval ratings in 2014, with Massachusetts and Hawaii leading the list at roughly 53%. Wyoming residents were the least approving, at 19.3%.
2014 marks the first time in Obama's six years in office that Massachusetts has as much as tied for first in approving of the president's job performance, while Obama's home state of Hawaii has topped the list each year.
Obama's overall rating nationally fell by four points over the same period, from 46.5% in 2013 to 42.4% in 2014. So far in 2015, Obama's approval rating has been better, averaging 46.5% in January. (Note that these averages are based on January to December results and therefore differ slightly from Gallup's other yearly calculation, which uses Obama's inauguration date as the starting point for each yearly average.)
California's fifth-place showing in 2014 is also its highest to date. Meanwhile, Maryland's and New York's appearance in the top four in 2014 is typical for these states.
Wyoming residents have frequently been the least approving of Obama, and repeated that in 2014 -- for the fourth time. Additionally, the three other states where less than 30% of residents approved last year -- West Virginia, Idaho and Utah -- have consistently given Obama some of his worst annual approval ratings by state.
These results are based on 177,034 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted nationally from January through December 2014. At least 400 respondents were interviewed in each state, and at least 1,000 were interviewed in 40 states. Each state's sample was weighted to match demographic parameters for that state's adult population.
Residents in Handful of Coastal States Give Obama His Highest Scores
The states can be grouped into five categories according to their average 2014 approval scores.
- Well-above-average approval = approval ratings exceeding 50%
- Above average = approval ratings between 46.5% and 50%
- Average = approval ratings within four percentage points of (above or below) the 42.4% national average -- or 38.4% to 46.4%
- Below average = approval ratings between 34% and 38.3%
- Well below average = approval ratings below 34%
Notably, several of the states where residents give Obama above-average or well-above-average ratings -- California, New York and New Jersey -- are highly populous. By contrast, Obama's lowest ratings tend to be in states with relatively small populations, such as several in the Rocky Mountain and Midwestern regions. The full results by state are shown below.
Relative State Rankings Mostly Steady Over Time
The basic regional pattern of Obama's 2014 state ratings is similar to what Gallup has found throughout his presidency, with his strongest support coming from the Northeast and Pacific regions, and his lowest in the Rockies, and parts of the South and Midwest. Thus, although his overall yearly approval rating has declined considerably since 2009, it has declined relatively proportionally in most states.
In a handful of states, Obama appears to have lost a bit more ground relative to his peak ratings in 2009 and 2012, including West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, Missouri, Indiana and Iowa. In all but Iowa, Obama's ratings have consistently been below the national average, but there was a significant deficit in Iowa in 2013 and 2014, compared with little difference in the earlier years. Notably, several of these states had important senatorial elections in 2014, and those elections saw Republicans score important victories that ultimately helped the GOP win control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.
The declines in these states more than offset the one- to two-point increases in his approval rating in a handful of small states.
In four states -- Virginia, Florida, Oregon and Georgia -- Obama's state job approval rating has matched the national average, or come within two percentage points, in every year since 2009, making these potentially valuable bellwether states. However, while Obama carried the first three in both presidential runs, he lost in Georgia, suggesting a greater disconnect between general public sentiment and the electorate in that state.
Obama ran into political and economic headwinds in 2014 that conspired to make his average job approval rating for the year his lowest yet. Because that was reflected in declines in most state ratings, the basic geographic pattern of his strengths and weaknesses remained about the same. However, the handful of states showing greater-than-average declines bear watching in 2015, because if this continues, and if the Democratic standard-bearer inherits these problems, that could have implications for 2016.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 177,034 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.
Margins of error for individual states are no greater than ±6 percentage points, and are ±3 percentage points in most states. The margin of error for the District of Columbia (shown in the table at the end of the report) is ±6 percentage points. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. National samples are weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. State samples are weighted to match state demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity and region. State demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Nielsen Claritas dataset.
Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.