PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time since Gallup began tracking Barack Obama's presidential job approval rating on Jan. 21, fewer than 60% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president. In Feb. 21-23 polling, 59% of Americans give Obama a positive review, while 25% say they disapprove, and 16% have no opinion.
To date, Obama has averaged 64% approval, but, as the graph shows, there has been a slight but perceptible decline in his approval rating since he took office. This decline has largely occurred among Republicans.
The drop below 60% approval within the past week -- from 63% in Feb. 18-20 polling to 59% in Feb. 21-23 polling -- has mostly come among independents. Late last week, 62% of independents approved of Obama, compared with 54% in the last three days. His approval rating among Democrats has dipped slightly (but not to a statistically significant degree), while approval among Republicans has not changed.
While Obama's overall approval rating has fallen by four percentage points in recent days (from 63% in Feb. 18-20 polling to the current 59%), his disapproval rating has been steady (24% in Feb. 18-20 polling to the current 25%). Rather, the percentage of Americans without an opinion of his job performance has increased, from 13% to 16%. In essence, Americans in recent days are becoming increasingly unsure about how Obama is doing, rather than becoming more critical.
As the table suggests, most of the movement among independents in recent days has been from the approval to the no opinion category. And his disapproval rating has dropped among Republicans, with a concomitant increase in no opinion. Thus, Americans' assessments of Obama are in a period of flux.
Given that Obama is addressing the nation tonight, he has a tremendous opportunity to convert Americans who are now on the fence -- in addition to those who now disapprove of him -- into supporters. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows Americans are most interested in hearing about economic matters, particularly how Obama will address unemployment, the mortgage crisis, and how the economic stimulus package will be administered.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,553 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 21-23, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.