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"Season of Progress" Does Little for Obama's Approval Rating

"Season of Progress" Does Little for Obama's Approval Rating

Latest 47% approval rating is close to post-midterm average

PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama's job approval rating for Dec. 26-28 is 47%, down slightly from his post-midterm-election peak of 49% recorded last week, and close to his average level of approval since November. Currently, 46% of Americans disapprove of Obama's job performance.


The general stability in Obama's approval rating since the Nov. 2 midterm elections -- in which his party lost majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives -- can be characterized as positive for Obama. Most presidents whose party suffers major midterm losses see their approval ratings fall. However, one might have expected Obama to see a bump in approval from the flurry of legislation passed in Congress prior to the Christmas recess. These include a bipartisan agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts, repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gay service members, passing a major food safety bill, and Senate ratification of the START arms reduction treaty with Russia.

Recent Gallup polling shows that all of these measures were supported by at least a plurality of Americans and, in some cases, a solid majority.

The president's approval rating briefly rose to 49% last week, in Gallup Daily tracking from Dec. 20-22, as Congress wrapped up work on these bills. Obama held a news conference on Wednesday in which he touted the historic nature of the 111th Congress' achievements, as well as his ability to work with Republicans to overcome gridlock, calling it a "season of progress."

However, in Gallup polling since Christmas, Obama's approval rating slid back slightly to 47%, nearly matching his average 46% approval rating since the start of November.

Thus, he is closing out his second year in office with a slightly lower approval rating than at the end of his first year. In 2009, his approval ratings between Christmas and New Year's ranged from 51% to 53%.

Obama's approval ratings at the end of his second year in office are higher than approval of two of the last five presidents (Bill Clinton with 40% and Ronald Reagan with 43%) at the same point in their presidencies. Jimmy Carter (51%), George H.W. Bush (63%), and George W. Bush (61%) each had higher approval ratings at the close of their second year.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 26-28, 2010, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,531 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, 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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for 3 nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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