Ed Morrissey @ Hot Air:
At first blush, the reaction to this Gallup poll is … so what? Barack Obama managed to get himself elected to a second term anyway, even with historically anemic approval numbers. But there’s more to this than just last November:
President Barack Obama averaged 49.1% job approval during his first term in office, among the lowest for post-World War II presidents. Only Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford had lower job approval averages. Obama’s first-term average is most similar to Bill Clinton’s. Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower were the most popular first-term presidents.
Obama’s first-term approval average, like those of most presidents with lower first-term averages, was likely dragged down by a sluggish economy. Clinton and Reagan saw higher second-term approval as the economy improved. Obama’s approval rating has also shown improvement, with a 48.1% average in his fourth year in office after a 44.4% average in his third year.
Obama has recently rebounded, but it’s still not terribly impressive from a historical standpoint:
The more recent positive trend in evaluations of Obama is evident in his quarterly averages. For his 16th quarter in office, from Oct. 20 through Jan. 19, he averaged 51.9% approval. That was his first quarterly average above 50% since his fourth quarter in office. Obama has seen at least modest improvement in his job approval average each of the last five quarters, since a term-low 41.0% in his 11th quarter in office. That quarter was marked by contentious negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling, and an ensuing drop in the stock market while unemployment remained high.
Even at 51.9%, Obama doesn’t have much momentum rolling into his second term. That only puts him above Reagan and Clinton, neither of whom were known for their second-term agendas. George W. Bush had a 62.2% average approval rating in his first term, and the combination of a botched attempt to reform Social Security and the Hurricane Katrina disaster ended any hope of making headway in a second term on domestic politics, while the worsening war in Iraq eroded what was left of his political capital.
Why does this matter for Obama?