Is Obama a party animal? U.S. political trends make it so
The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors, is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”
Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama)