George W. Bush

Presidential Approval Follows Similar Trends

A recent article by Pew Research demonstrates changes in presidential approval ratings from Eisenhower through today.

A recent article by Pew Research demonstrates changes in presidential approval ratings from Eisenhower through today.

Pew Research just released an overview of presidential job approval ratings from Eisenhower to Obama based on research conducted by Pew and Gallup from 1952 to 2015.

There were a few things that struck me as interesting in the data included in Pew Research’s article, For Presidents Day, a look at presidential job approval ratings from Ike to Obama.

  1. Approval ratings by party for each president changed in a similar fashion. Regardless of president or party, approval ratings went up and down at about the same rate and time for all 11 presidents.
  2. Approval ratings for nine of 11 presidents declined as their term in office drew to a close. The only exceptions were Carter and Reagan.
  3. Overall high and low approval ratings for Reagan and Obama are similar. Reagan’s high approval was 68 percent and low 35 percent compared to Obama’s high of 64 percent and low of 41 percent.
  4. The largest gap between high and low ratings were for the two Bushes, net 60 for George and net 64 for George W. Conversely, the smallest change from high to low were for Obama, net 23, and Kennedy, net 26.
  5. The fond memories of the Camelot Years of the Kennedy administration may be an illusion. Kennedy’s approval ratings were declining significantly during the months immediately prior to his assassination.

When released, Presidential approval ratings are interesting tidbits for coffee shops and cocktail parties. But a closer look at trends and comparisons yields surprising and unexpected results. You find substantive topics such as war, the economy, domestic strife, international relations and perhaps the favorite topic of all, scandal.

Shortcomings of the Presidential Speech

Most Americans look to the President for leadership, but evidence compiled by Pew Research suggests they don't often find it in major presidential speeches.

President Obama will try his luck tonight in a televised address seeking to convince skeptical, war-weary Americans of the need to make a targeted military strike against Syria. Polling data indicates opinion is running against U.S. military action. 

Based on history, Pew Research says Obama's speech isn't like to make much difference, except perhaps to make the emotionally charged issue more partisan. 

After sifting through a database of major presidential addresses devoted to specific topics, Pew concluded, "The speeches don't seem to do much to move the needle on public opinion or push Congress in the President's direction."

"President Reagan, for instance, was unable to convince even a plurality of Americans that the United States should provide military aid to the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government, despite three Oval Office addresses on the issue between March 1986 and February 1988."

President George H. W. Bush similarly failed to convince more than a third of Americans of the value of a deficit reduction deal he struck with Congress in 1990.

President George W. Bush took to the airwaves urging immigration reform with "path to citizenship," but failed to increase public support for such a plan from pre-speech levels.