Obama’s Partisan Gap

April 7, 2009

President Barack Obama has the widest partisan gap in early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades, according to a Pew Research Center public opinion poll that got a lot of attention in the blogosphere on Monday.

The poll gives Obama an 88 percent approval rating among his own Democrats and a 27 percent rating among opposition Republicans.

The 61-point partisan gap in Obama’s job performance reflects a growing divide and a long-term trend, says Pew.

At the same point in Republican George W. Bush’s first term, in April 2001, there was a 51-point partisan gap in views of his job performance — 87 percent approval among Republicans while Democrats gave him a 36 percent approval rating.

In early April 1993, 71 percent of Democrats approved of Bill Clinton’s job performance, while 26 percent of Republicans gave the Democratic president a favorable rating.

Going back in time, partisanship was far less evident in the early job approval ratings for both Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, Pew says.

A majority of Republicans (56%) approved of Democrat Carter’s job performance in late March 1977, and a majority of Democrats (55%) approved of Republican Nixon’s performance at a comparable point in his first term.


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Given that the proportion of Republicans’ approval of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, at the same stage of their presidencies, remain the same at c. 26-27% I would say that the correct interpretation is that the Republicans support for non-Republican presidents remain stable. The growing divide comes from stronger support from the Democrats, not because there is less Republican support for Obama (vs for Bill Clinton).

Posted by leo | Report as abusive

The trend line is that President Obama 300% more support from Republicans now than President Bush had from Democrats when he left office. How many data points can you really get if you compare the first few months of Presidencies? It was President George W. Bush who was the most partisan President in US History according to Pew’s data. President Obama has dramatically improved things (more than tripled the support of his predecessor in the other party) in only a few months.

It’s only a he said/she said press and Pew trying to get attention that would present this positive information in such an adversarial way. People are agreeing more now than they did 4 months ago. That’s the trend.

http://people-press.org/report/478/bush- legacy-public-opinion

Posted by joejoejoe | Report as abusive

Mr. Obama is not lying to everyone as Mr. Bush did during his 1st 100 days. We all had high hopes for Bush but he had no integrety. He was willing to lie and Obama is not, that is the difference.

Posted by Michael Engle | Report as abusive

I think most people are still upset and rebelling due to the press protection given this man and the cover up of vital constitutional requirements.Transparencey? He also has been very untruthful about some subjects.These are flat out lies,not accusations like weapons of mass destruction where the congress was notified before the president released the info the whole world thought sadam had.He will be a castout in the past president’s club just like carter.I won’t support him as president until his college papers and original birth certificate are made public.The american people deserve constitutional requirements to be adhered to.

Posted by hrl71 | Report as abusive

I suspect that this is more of a comment on the psychology of modern Republicans than on Obama’s performance.

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive

To me, this shows more about how unreasonable and out-of-touch most Republicans are than about whether Obama is polarizing or has “reached out” to them.

Clearly, he has reached out. He tried to appoint one to head up the Department of Commerce, only to be ambushed by Judd Gregg’s very public abdication. He compromised like crazy on the first House bailout bill, only to have not one single Repubican House member — not one — vote in favor of it.

The Republicans have clearly announced their intentions. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct, in hopes that enough obstruction can make it impossible for Obama to succeed and then to campaign on Obama’s lack of success in the mid-term elections and in 2012.

What a party. They’re willing for America to go — or should I say “stay” — in the tank just so they can rebound as a party.

Let’s hope their cynical strategy fails. If it does, it may be decades before they are viable again. And that would, indeed, be good for the country.

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

Two words here: FOX NEWS. If you have been watching them since day one, all they do is bash the President. Unjustifiably. They sang praises for Bush, our worst “president” for 8 years, and the second Obama was in office, everything was negative. Socialism. Guns being taken away. Tea parties. This is all they do. Rupert Murdoch has tone more harm to this country than anyone since yellow journalism began. It needs to stop. The lies and distortions coming out of that propaganda machine are getting dangerous. Just watch Glenn Beck for an hour and you’ll see what I mean. Watch O’Reilly. Hannity. Heck, watch how they cover the news in the morning. If they ask a question, it’s a very, very leading question and always gets the answer they want. Anyway, this doesn’t surprise me.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

Are reporters now so short-sighted? This is America’s gap, not Obama’s. Obama inherited it.

Posted by Logic | Report as abusive

The gap would seem to indicate that there is a substantial number of legislators who feel extremely threatened by the prospect of real change. Taking the chance of offending those corporate representatives, who are seeking open ended government contracts, and tax breaks for their industries, continuation of flouting environmental law, who have been feathering their financial nests via lobbyists and favoritism, they would be risking the loss of financial support, direct and indirect. Those legislators would seem to be more interested in their own welfare, rather than that of our country and it’s citizens. If President Obama and his agenda can successfully be denigrated, then the sword of change is blunted, at the expense of those of us in the world who are not owned by someone.

Posted by Joel Maguire | Report as abusive

This article doesn’t really tell the whole story. It leaves you with the impression that the country is split roughly 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. This is not the case: according to a March 2008 Pew Research poll, Democrats outnumber Republicans 36% to 27%, with Independents claiming 37%. This is the lowest number of self-identified Republicans in 16 years.

(source: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/773/fewer-vo ters-identify-as-republicans)

Obama’s favorability among his own party is 88%. Higher than for any 1st-year president since at least Nixon. Higher than Reagan, higher than G.W. Bush. Similarly, Obama’s favorability among independents is positive at 57%.

The country has re-aligned strongly with the Democratic party (36-seat majority in the House, 9-seat majority in the Senate, +3 of governors.) Those that remain with the GOP after the last few years of very strong overall dissatisfaction with the economy, the wars, and the former administration, are clearly ardent believers: if the last three years didn’t shake them away from the GOP, what would?

Posted by Chris N | Report as abusive

Your reporting is biased. I vote my conscience. Irresponsible spending and jumbo loans are part of the equation that got us into this mess. Any thinking adult can see that the budget is no budget at all. We are repeating voodoo economics. When will the media quit pushing an agenda and listen to the people?

You think by saying it it will be so (post modern thinking). It’s time to debunk that thinking. There is a reality; we have seen the effects. The reality is this: over-spending reaps insolvency (as Soros says about the banks). Read history!

Deborah Waddill

Posted by Deborah | Report as abusive

This is bogus. Only 25% of voters self-identify as Republicans. Only the ultra-rightwing of the Party is left and they will always hate anything Obama does. Any division is their doing. Fear, Hatred and Division is all they’ve got

Posted by thebob.bob | Report as abusive

I perceive the dividing as being accomplished by the “Republicans” who are more concerned with Obama’s birth place and religion and acquaintances rather than with how he is dealing with the financial problems of the country. Very few of my Republican friends have any inclination of being a part of Obama’s solution. They consider HIM to be the problem….completely ignoring they are now the minority party.

Posted by msgijoe | Report as abusive

It seems that the numbers indicate a growing trend in partisanship as reflected in Presidential approval ratings more than commentary on the particular president, no?

Posted by David_In_NC | Report as abusive

What is it with the fanatical anti-Obamamania? It gets reduced to silliness in blogs with arguments over a birth certificate, his using a teleprompter too much, and he is “evil”. Some on the right are causing great damage to the Republican party(we can’t afford a one party system) with their silly arguments which clearly expose an unreasonable dislike or hatred of Obama. The American people are at heart reasonable and will reject this madness thinning further the chances of the right being able to counterbalance effectively the left. But at this time it appears there is a truly extreme element positioned on the right unwilling to find anything good in Obama.

Posted by richard b | Report as abusive

richard, as childish & embarassing as it seems, I believe it comes down to political grandstanding rooted in petty jealousy.

Bush’s approval ratings were subterranean. Obama is easily the most widely-popular president since Kennedy. The Republican party is at a loss for sound or fresh ideas, w/out any meaningful leaders who don’t make the average American’s skin crawl, & without direction.

It sounds ridiculous, but think about it. Their arguments just don’t add up. They don’t want big Govt? They expanded Govt exponentially under Bush. All of a sudden they’re fiscal conservatives? They spent like drunken sailors under Bush.

The Country has a strong, charismatic leader that the majority is proud of. The far right has glen beck weeping & calling for revolution. They keep these circus acts up much longer they’ll go the way of the Whigs.

Posted by sf | Report as abusive

It’s the economy, stupid. If there will be no palpable improvement by mid-2010, a lot of incumbents will lose their Congressional seats. Since the majority are the Dems, they’re poised to lose the most. And, like it or not, everyone will read the results of the elections as the referendum on Obama.
As for the current polls and approval ratings – they’re largely meaningless. The results can be manipulated and interpreted to prove just about anything. As the saying goes – there are lies, and then there are blatant lies, and then there’s statistics.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

The conservatives will be back. So stop all the talk like this group will be in power forever. They won’t. Remember, only 52 percent voted for them. Nearly half the country does not buy in to their snake oil.

As for FOX news. Be quiet. CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS and so on are all clearly liberal oriented and don’t hide their progressive liberal views they force on the rest of us.

Are you progressives so insecure that one station out of the multitude that are liberal upsets you? You don’t even have to watch FOX, but you do.

If the conservative viewpoint wasn’t the dominate viewpoint in this country, then stations like FOX wouldn’t even exist. Liberal radio never survives because no one wants to listen to their drivel. Plus, the majority of America isn’t progressive like the few people on here who post about FOX.

If you are so confident in your point of view, then why worry about FOX and conservative talk radio? It is clear you aren’t confident in your viewpoint so you tear the other side down rather than debate on your own merits.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

tc, it never ceases to be hilarious to hear the far right claim that EVERY OTHER news organization out there is biased. Except theirs. It would never occur to them that by definition that makes THEM the fringe, would it? Of course not.

People are concerned about Fox because they prey upon the fears of the weak-minded, paranoid & predjudiced among us. Not because they’re conservative. Nobody’s up in arms about the MacNeil-Lehrer report or any of the business programs. But lighting fires under imbalanced people is indeed dangerous.

As for 48% of the country voting against Obama, that does not mean that 48% of the country would consider themselves Republican. That number is actually far lower and is, in fact, shrinking.

I hope the conservatives do come back. The real, fiscal conservatives. We do need checks & balances. Not political grandstanding. But the right wingnut lunatic fringe needs to be cleared out if the conservative party is to thrive again.

Posted by sf | Report as abusive

sf. No one said anything about FOX not being biased. They are clearly conservative. So don’t make things up. I don’t expect any better from the someone from the far left progressive fringe.

As for your claims about FOX preying “upon the fears of the weak-minded, paranoid & predjudiced among us.” That is just pure nonsense. They go to great lengths to give all sides of an argument inviting extreme liberals on their shows to discuss all sides of the issues. You can claim otherwise, but again, I don’t expect someone from the far left fringe to have an objective outlook on this.

Still only 52 percent voted for Obama, but the way the media (I already mentioned the vast majority of liberal leaning networks) reports you would think 90 percent of the people voted for him. They didn’t.

Also, no one mentioned McNeil-Lehrer, so making an issue out of nothing really shows the far left fringe doesn’t have an argument against the truth about the majority of major media outlets I previously mentioned.

The conservatives will be back, you can count on it.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive