Obama’s Second Term vs. Bush’s Second Term: Job Approval #s

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, left, and former President George W. Bush arrive at the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.

That second term can be a real problem.

On May 19, 2005, the Pew Research Center reported that then-President George W. Bush’s popularity was slipping:

“Americans are critical of President Bush’s job performance in many policy areas, but negative opinions of his handling of the economy and Iraq are doing the most damage to his overall approval rating, which now stands at 43 percent. Just 35 percent approve of the president’s handling of the economy, down from 43 percent in February and 45 percent in January.”

“`With the level of violence rising in Iraq, Bush’s ratings also have slipped on that issue ­ from 45 percent in January, to 40 percent in February, and 37 percent currently. Over the same period, positive opinions of his handling of foreign policy have fallen 10 points, to 38 percent. There has been greater stability in Bush’s marks on energy policy and Social Security, but he gets positive ratings of only about 30 percent on both issues (energy policy 31 percent, Social Security 29 percent).”

President Barack Obama has no Iraq war to worry about, and he is winding down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

But he does have the IRS to worry about now.

And that cuts closer to home for more Americans than any foreign conflict in recent years.

Having accepted the forced resignation of the acting IRS commissioner this week after it was revealed that workers had singled out Tea Party-related groups for scrutiny, the president will confront continuing questions as the first of the congressional hearings start tomorrow.

The president’s job approval, which reached 58 percent after reelection, in December, stood at 53 percent as recently as mid-April in the Gallup Poll’s count. Today, it is down to 48 percent in a three-day survey, May 13-15.

By the Pew Research Center’s count, the president’s job approval stood at 51 percent in April, after slipping to 47 percent in March.

Both counts are somewhat better than the 43 percent that Bush was looking at in this stage of his second term.

Nate Silver has taken it a step further, looking at the average standing of past seven presidents, back to Harry Truman.

“The seven presidents were quite popular, on average, in their first term,” Silver reports at the FiveThirtyEight blog. “Their approval ratings averaged 59 percent throughout their first term, and 57 percent in the final year of their first term, when they faced an election.”

“By contrast, the same presidents averaged a 48 percent approval rating during their second term. Moreover, their approval ratings declined throughout their second term – to an average of only 42 percent by the final year of their second term.”

At the same time, he attempts to dispel the myth of the cursed second term.

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