PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama's second quarter as U.S. president, spanning April 20-July 19, began with some of the highest approval ratings of his presidency, but these slumped a bit near the end of the quarter, including a term-low 56% approval rating in July 5-7 polling. Overall, he averaged 62% approval for the quarter.
Obama's job approval rating generally exceeded the 62% quarterly average in April, May, and early June. This included 68% approval for April 30-May 2 polling, one point off Obama's 69% high. But since early June, with only a couple of exceptions, Obama's approval rating has been at or below 62%.
Specifically, from April 20 through June 8, Obama averaged 64% approval. Since then, his average is 59%. This recent decline probably reflects concern about increased government spending and involvement in the private sector, according to a recent Gallup survey that probed Americans for the reasons they approve or disapprove of Obama. Those who support him largely recognize his efforts toward addressing the problems facing the country.
Despite the ups and downs in Obama's second quarter, his overall average is little changed from the 63% average for his first quarter in office. And even though he has had numerous sub-60% individual ratings in June and July, all of these have still exceeded the historical average of 55% job approval for presidents from Truman through George W. Bush. On this basis, it can be argued that he is still in the honeymoon phase of his presidency.
Obama's 62% second-quarter average exceeds those for his immediate predecessors, George W. Bush (56%) and Bill Clinton (44%), but is similar to those for Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and the elder George Bush. Among presidents elected to their first terms since 1952, only Dwight Eisenhower (72%) and John Kennedy (76%) had second-quarter averages significantly better than Obama's.
There has been no clear historical pattern as to whether presidents' approval ratings rise or fall in their third quarter in office. Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan saw their averages decline from the second to the third quarter. Kennedy's third-quarter average was essentially the same as his second-quarter average. But the elder and the younger Bush saw theirs increase. The elder Bush's apparently got an initial bounce after the Tiananmen Square incident in China in June 1989 but it remained high as Eastern European nations adopted political reforms and the U.S. economy remained strong during the third quarter. The younger Bush's soared after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Clinton's average approval rating began to recover after bottoming out at 44% in his second quarter in office.
Obama's third quarter promises to be eventful, given his push for healthcare reform. While Congress has now drafted healthcare legislation, its passage is far from certain. Obama remains committed to reform, so its ultimate legislative success or failure could go a long way toward influencing how Americans evaluate him.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 45,320 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 20-July 19, 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 ±1 percentage point.
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.