PRINCETON, NJ -- President Obama's average job approval rating for the month of February in Gallup Daily tracking was 45%, with 47% disapproving, unchanged from January.
Obama's job approval in February exceeds the lows seen last summer, when his monthly approval rating dipped to 41% from August through October. That followed a slide from 50% in May after the successful U.S. military mission in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. However, despite the recent improvement in his score, it has yet to recover to the level seen at the start of 2011, when 49% approved and 43% disapproved.
Apart from the rally in approval after the bin Laden mission, the last time Obama's monthly approval rating averaged 50% or better was two years ago, in February 2010.
The 50% approval mark is a crucial one for presidents in a re-election year. All incumbents who have been elected to a second term had a 50% or higher average approval rating by February of that year, and in the case of all but George W. Bush, they maintained that through Election Day.
Whether Obama can break out of this inauspicious pattern in an election year remains to be seen. But it is noteworthy that no elected president from Dwight Eisenhower through George W. Bush saw his approval rating drop below 50% for this long leading up to his re-election year. Rather, all seven presidents -- including Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, both of whom lost their re-election bids -- received at least 50% approval at some point late in their third year or early in their fourth year, if not routinely throughout their first term.
Apart from his monthly averages, and aside from the bin Laden rally period, the last time Obama had approval ratings of 50% or better for even several consecutive days in Gallup Daily tracking was in January 2011. Obama's sub-50% approval ratings are continuing thus far in March, with his approval rating registering between 43% and 48% in Gallup's three-day rolling averages.
That half of Americans say Obama's presidency to date has been a "failure" underscores the challenge the president faces in convincing voters he deserves a second term. The 44% today saying Obama has been a success contrasts with the 64% saying this of Bill Clinton just a few months before his re-election in 1996.
Most Democrats consider Obama's presidency a success while most Republicans call it a failure. Independents' views are similar to the national average, with the slight majority calling it a failure.
President Obama averaged 45% approval from Americans in February, slightly improved over the 41% last summer, but no higher than it was in January, suggesting the rebound from last summer's lows has slowed or stalled. Apart from a brief spike to 50% average approval last May after the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan, Obama has not enjoyed sustained majority approval from Americans since his first year in office -- a dubious distinction in the history of modern presidents.
Obama still has time to correct that, and with 45% average approval last month, he is not far from the mark. Gallup polling also shows him running competitively against his potential Republican challengers in voter preferences for the fall election.
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 as part of Gallup Daily tracking Feb 1-29, 2012, with a random sample of 13,999 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 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 2011 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.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for 27 nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.