PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama's job approval rating averaged 43% last week, identical to his rating each week since late October. While more Americans continue to disapprove than approve of the president's job performance, his recent stretch at 43% approval is a slight improvement over the 40% to 42% readings seen more commonly in the weeks prior.
Longer term, Obama's weekly average approval rating remains depressed relative to the 45% to 50% readings seen for much of the first half of 2011. His rating had previously dropped to 43% in April before rebounding in early May, to 51%, on the news that American forces had killed Osama bin Laden. His weekly approval rating remained high throughout May, but then gradually decreased in June and July before first reaching his term low of 40% in August.
The latest weekly average is based on Gallup Daily tracking from Nov. 21-27, with no interviewing on Nov. 24.
Obama's initial 2011 approval ratings, averaging 49% in January, were just at the threshold that Gallup historical trends suggest are needed for a president seeking re-election to succeed. Gerald Ford lost his bid for the presidency in 1976 when his approval rating averaged 49%. However, Harry Truman averaged 48% job approval in 1948, the year he won a second term, and George W. Bush averaged 50% approval in 2004. All other successful incumbents had average job approval ratings of 50% or higher in their re-election year.
2011 Decline in Approval Steepest Among Core Independents
Obama's approval rating has decreased among all six partisan/ideology groups Gallup tracks on a regular basis since January, but it has dropped the most -- 10 percentage points, from 40% to 30% -- among pure independents. These are the roughly 14% of national adults who neither identify with one of the two major parties nor indicate a leaning. Obama's approval rating has declined by nearly as much -- eight points -- among moderate/liberal Republicans, from 29% to 21%.
Obama's approval rating has changed the least in 2011 among the two groups on the far left and right of the U.S. political spectrum. Most liberal Democrats and very few conservative Republicans approved of him in January and this remains the case today. Additionally, conservative Democrats' views also showed little change -- likely because their approval was already at a dampened 70% at the start of the year.
Approval among moderate Democrats fell by six points from 81% to 75%.
Obama's latest 43% weekly average approval rating matches his ratings for the prior four weeks. While slightly improved over his approval ratings earlier this fall, it stands well shy of where it started in 2011 and where it likely needs to be in 2012 for Obama to win re-election.
Assuming the last Americans to leave Obama's support base will be the easiest for him to recapture in the coming months, the most important voters for Obama to target could be those on the center-right. His approval ratings were not especially high among pure independents and moderate/liberal Republicans to begin with, but as seen in January, they can help to supplement his Democratic base and push him near the electorally important 50% approval threshold. Given their relatively large numbers in the population, and the six-point decline in their approval of Obama this year, focusing on rebuilding support among moderate Democrats could also be important.
Explore President Obama's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 21-27, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 2,978 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 ±2 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 sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 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.
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 www.gallup.com.