Not since Bill Clinton’s first term in office has a president’s first-year job approval rating varied so widely as Pres. Barack Obama’s on the eve of his State of the Union address. According to Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones, “the 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats’ (88%) and Republicans’ (23%) average job approval ratings for Barack Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office.”
Obama began his term with a 41-percent approval rating from Republicans, but that number dropped to 28 percent in February, down to 17 percent in August, and now stands at 18 percent. Meanwhile, his approval rating among Democrats started at 88 percent, peaked at 90 percent in August, and currently stands at 82 percent.
“Bush’s average Republican-Democratic gap for his eight years in office was 61 points,” Jones writes. “This included the record gap for a single approval rating: 83 points, which occurred twice–in September 2004 (95% Republican, 12% Democratic) and October 2004 (94% Republican, 11% Democratic).”
Other presidents with large approval gaps include Clinton (52 percent) and Ronald Reagan (39 percent).
Should his polarizing effect persist, posits Jones, “Obama would exceed Bush as the president with the most polarized approval ratings.”