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Age Groups Differ on Obama More Than on Bush, Clinton

Age Groups Differ on Obama More Than on Bush, Clinton

PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama's job approval rating averages 66% among young adults during his presidency, 15 percentage points higher than for senior citizens and at least nine points higher than for any other age group. During their presidencies, George W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's approval ratings showed much less variation by age.

Presidential Job Approval by Age, Most Recent Presidents

These data are based on the Gallup averages for the entire Clinton and Bush presidencies and for Obama's presidency through February 2010. Clinton averaged 55% approval as president and Bush 49% among all U.S. adults; Obama averages 57% thus far.

Clinton's average approval ratings by age group were remarkably consistent, varying by only as much as three percentage points between groups. Clinton's highest rating (57%) came from 18- to 29-year-olds and his lowest (54%) from 50- to 64-year-olds.

Bush's approval ratings showed slightly more variation, but only as much as a six-point spread between age groups. Bush averaged 52% approval among 30- to 49-year-olds and 46% among both young adults and senior citizens.

The greater age variation in Obama's ratings results largely from his high approval ratings from young adults; his ratings among older age groups fall within a fairly narrow six-point range (51% to 57%).

Obama's approval ratings among young adults have consistently exceeded those among older Americans throughout his presidency. Even as his overall approval rating has declined to the 50% range in recent months, his support among young adults remains relatively strong, averaging 60% last month. By comparison, an average of 43% of senior citizens approved of the job Obama was doing in February.

Barack Obama Presidential Job Approval by Age, Monthly Averages, January 2009-February 2010

Obama's strong appeal to young adults was evident even prior to his becoming president. Young adults were one of his strongest constituencies in the 2008 general presidential election against John McCain and in Obama's Democratic presidential nomination campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Bottom Line

While some patterns of support for presidents (such as by political party) are predictable, others are less so. That appears to be the case with support for President Obama by age group. Obama maintains a unique appeal to younger Americans while attracting considerably less support among senior citizens. The variation in Obama's job approval ratings by age stands in contrast to the rather limited variation in approval ratings by age for his two immediate predecessors.

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