PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama averaged 46.8% job approval during his 14th quarter in office, marking a slight improvement from quarter 13. His quarterly average approval rating has improved at least slightly in each of the last three quarters after dipping to a low 41.0% in the 11th quarter.
Obama's 14th quarter approval average ranks in the 32nd percentile of all presidential quarterly approval averages Gallup has compiled since 1945, meaning it is well below the historical average of 54%. For his entire presidency to date, Obama has averaged 49% job approval.
The recent and continuing improvement in his approval rating, though, is a positive sign for his re-election prospects, but it remains below the 50% level that virtually assures a president of a second term in office. Obama appears in much better shape now than the two recently elected presidents who were denied a second term -- Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush -- both of whom averaged below 40% approval their 14th quarters in office.
At the same time, Obama is not as well-positioned as the post-World War II elected presidents who were above 50% during their 14th quarters and who all won re-election easily.
Obama's 14th quarter average is most similar to that of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, who won a narrow victory over John Kerry for re-election in 2004.
Obama's average is also similar to Gerald Ford's 46.0% from his eighth quarter in office, which occurred in the spring and early summer of 1976. Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon resigned, narrowly lost his attempt to win election in his own right, losing to Carter in the subsequent 1976 election.
Dramatic Improvement in Obama's Approval Unlikely in Next Quarter
The next quarter, which stretches from late July through Oct. 19, roughly two weeks before Election Day, will give a stronger indication of Obama's chances of being re-elected.
Based on historical record, it is unlikely that Obama's approval rating will improve dramatically over the next three months. The biggest improvement any recent president had between the 14th and 15th quarter was slightly more than two percentage points for George W. Bush. In that case, the increase was enough to move Bush's average to the 50% mark. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan also gained in quarter 15 but were already above 50%.
Carter and the elder Bush both saw decreases in approval at a time when they needed to show dramatic improvement in their public support to win re-election.
Obama's approval ratings in the mid-to-upper-40s make his re-election prospects uncertain. The two presidents who had approval ratings in that same range roughly four months before the election were George W. Bush in 2004 and Gerald Ford in 1976, one of whom won re-election and the other was defeated.
For the past month, Obama has generally held a slight advantage over his Republican opponent Mitt Romney in Gallup Daily tracking of presidential election preferences. Still the advantage is not large enough to where Obama would appear safe, taking into account usual Republican advantages in turnout.
If Obama's standing among the public, as measured by his job approval rating, improves in the coming months, he will be in a stronger position for re-election. But if his approval rating declines, a second Obama term would be very much in doubt.
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 April 20-July 19, 2012, with a random sample of 45,949 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 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 phones 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.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents each night 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 https://www.gallup.com/.