Obama’s approval rating low, but not Jimmy Carter low

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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As President Barack Obama’s approval rating continues to bottom out in various polls, the inevitable comparisons with President Jimmy Carter have emerged.

While sentiment toward Obama may feel reminiscent of the Carter era, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has a long way to go before he reaches Carter’s public approval low-water mark. (RELATED: Poll shows Obama approval rating at new low)

Carter, like Obama, won the presidency on a wave of hope. But Carter’s approval numbers subsequently tanked so low that he was voted out after one term. According to Gallup’s tracking poll, his public approval rating hit an all-time low on July 2, 1979, when just 28 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as president.

The lowest number Obama has seen to date is 38 percent — a full 10 percentage points higher than Carter’s. This came at the end of August, following a turbulent debate over the federal debt ceiling and Standard & Poor’s subsequent credit downgrade of the United States.

Obama’s approval rating has also held more steady than Carter’s, which saw large fluctuations over the course of his term.

Beginning with his relatively high 50 percent approval at the start of 1979, Carter’s numbers trended steadily downward before bottoming out at 28 percent six months later. But those numbers rocketed back up to 58 percent during the last months of 1979 and January 1980 — then taking another sharp dive into the low thirties by Election Day.

Obama’s approval numbers, on the other hand, have swung more modestly for the duration of 2011, primarily between 40 and 50 percent.

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