PRINCETON, NJ -- In Gallup Daily tracking that spans Barack Obama's third quarter in office (July 20 through Oct. 19), the president averaged a 53% job approval rating. That is down sharply from his prior quarterly averages, which were both above 60%.
In fact, the 9-point drop in the most recent quarter is the largest Gallup has ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953. One president who was not elected to his first term -- Harry Truman -- had a 13-point drop between his second and third quarters in office in 1945 and 1946.
The dominant political focus for Obama in the third quarter was the push for healthcare reform, including his nationally televised address to Congress in early September. Obama hoped that Congress would vote on healthcare legislation before its August recess, but that goal was missed, and some members of Congress faced angry constituents at town hall meetings to discuss healthcare reform. Meanwhile, unemployment continued to climb near 10%. The high point of Obama's third quarter may have been his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize during the quarter, which led to a noticeable but very brief bump in support.
More generally, Obama's 9-point slide between quarters ranks as one of the steepest for a president at any point in his first year in office. The highest is Truman's 19-point drop between his third and fourth quarters, followed by a 15-point drop for Gerald Ford between his first and second quarters. The largest for an elected president in his first year is Bill Clinton's 11-point slide between his first and second quarters.
In Obama's first quarter and second quarter, his job approval average compared favorably with those of prior presidents. But after the drop in his support during the last quarter, his average now ranks near the bottom for presidents at similar points in their presidencies. Only Clinton had a lower third-quarter average among elected presidents. (Gerald Ford averaged 39% during his third quarter in office, in 1975.)
Obama's 53% third-quarter average is substandard from a broader historical perspective that encompasses all 255 presidential quarters for which Gallup has data going back to 1945. On this basis, Obama's most recent average ranks 144th, or in the 44th percentile, clearly below average not just for presidents' third quarters but for all presidents.
Results are based on aggregated telephone interviews with 45,987 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 20 through Oct. 19, 2009, as part of Gallup 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 and cellular phones.
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.