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Obama begins second term with job approval up

January 17, 2013|By Paul West
  • President Obama's approval rating heading into his second term is more in line with George W. Bush than Bill Clinton.
President Obama's approval rating heading into his second term is… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

President Obama begins his second term with a job approval rating higher than it was for much of the last two years but still well below that of most other presidents who have won reelection.

A new Pew Research Center opinion survey, released Thursday, found that 52% of the public approves of the job Obama is doing.  A little over a year ago, his approval rating had fallen to a low point of 44%, the independent polling outfit noted.

But Obama’s rating still lags when compared with all but one of the last seven presidents who won another term. 

Bill Clinton, the last reelected Democrat, launched his second term with a 59% approval rating.  He concluded it at 61%, despite having been impeached along the way.

Ronald Reagan was at 62% when he took the oath of office for the second time in 1985. He wound up at 63%, and that was after getting dragged down by the Iran-Contra scandal in his second term.

Since World War II, the only president who started his second term with an approval rating lower than Obama’s is George W. Bush, whose rating stood at 50% in January 2005.

The lower numbers for Bush and Obama are in part a function of the country’s partisan divide, which has deepened steadily since the early 1990s.   “Obama’s current rating among Republicans (14% approve) is about the same as Bush’s among Democrats eight years ago (17%),” according to the Pew report.

Bush, who was dragged down by the start of the worst recession since the Great Depression, left office four years ago with a 24% job rating — the same number that Richard Nixon notched when he resigned the presidency in 1974.

Obama can take some comfort in his personal favorability ratings, which have risen to 59% from 51% a year ago.  A clear majority of voting-age Americans — 59% — also see him as a strong leader, a 7-percentage-point improvement from January 2012.

But views of Obama are significantly more negative than they were at the time he took office, amid considerable public and media excitement, in January 2009. Back then, 79% of the public took a favorable view of the incoming president, an impressive ratio that Obama is unlikely to see again, regardless of how things go in his second term.

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