In Polarized Political World, President Obama Has Most Polarized Approval Ratings For 1st Year President In Recorded History

Gallup has a new poll out today indicating that President Obama enjoys 88% job approval ratings among Democrats and 23% approval ratings among Republicans – a 65 percentage point gap that makes his job approval ratings the most polarized in recorded history for a 1st year president.

In a way this is a misleading achievement. In his first year, President Bill Clinton was as unpopular among Republicans as is President Obama, but Obama is more popular among Democrats than Clinton was. So by this definition, Clinton being less popular with his own party makes him less polarizing, since the gap was only 52 percentage points.

In fact, President Obama’s approval among members of his own party is surpassed only by President George W. Bush, who had a 92% approval rating (post-9/11, of course).

Much of this historically has to do with how polarized American politics has become.

"Prior to Ronald Reagan, no president averaged more than a 40-point gap in approval ratings by party during his term; since then, only the elder George Bush has averaged less than a 50-point gap,” Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones wrote.

“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources, and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio,” Jones wrote. “The outcome is that Americans evaluate their presidents and other political leaders through increasingly thick partisan lenses.”


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