PRINCETON, NJ -- Registered voters are about evenly divided over whether President Barack Obama is deserving of a second term in office. Currently, 46% say he deserves re-election and 50% say he does not. Predictably, Democrats are one-sided for Obama's re-election and Republicans are one-sided against it, while independents lean against a second Obama term.
The 46% who say Obama deserves re-election is similar to his recent job approval ratings, which have been running just under 50%. The current results also echo what Gallup found recently when it asked voters whether they would be more likely to vote for Obama or the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election.Gallup has asked the public whether other recent presidents deserved re-election, and the results suggest that the question is not highly predictive this far out from a president's re-election bid. For example, in late April/early May 2002, 69% of registered voters said George W. Bush deserved re-election. At that time, Bush's job approval rating was 77% as he was still enjoying the post-9/11 rally. Bush did win re-election in 2004, although in a close contest with John Kerry.
The current numbers for Obama are similar to what Gallup found for Bill Clinton at almost precisely the same point in his presidency, in late March 1994. In that poll, 46% of Americans (the survey did not identify registered voters) said Clinton deserved to be re-elected and 48% said he did not.
Americans became somewhat less likely to say Clinton was deserving of re-election over the course of 1994. Gallup's last measurement before the 1994 midterm elections, in October, showed 38% of Americans (and the same percentage of registered voters) saying Clinton deserved re-election, with the majority of 57% saying he did not. The Democratic Party suffered huge losses in the 1994 midterm elections, but Clinton was elected to a second term two years later by a comfortable margin over Bob Dole.
In late 1991 and early 1992, Americans were more inclined to say the elder George Bush deserved than did not deserve re-election. However, over the course of 1992, his approval rating dropped and voters ended up voting him out of office in favor of Clinton.
At this point, Americans are closely divided as to whether Obama should have a second presidential term, and independents -- who were important to Obama's election win in 2008 -- currently say he does not deserve re-election. However, data collected in the first terms of the prior three presidents suggest those attitudes can change -- even in the same year in which a president is actively campaigning for re-election, as was the case for the elder George Bush.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 968 registered voters, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-28, 2010. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline 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.