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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Low POTUS Approval

President Barack Obama's job approval rating averaged 41% in September, tied with August for the lowest monthly approval average of his administration.

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While Obama's September job approval average may not appear to bode well for him, history shows that approval ratings at this juncture are not strongly predictive of an incumbent president's re-election chances. Jimmy Carter in 1979 had lower monthly average approval ratings in September of the year before his election than Obama has now. Carter went on to lose his re-election bid. George H.W. Bush's approval rating in September of 1991 was 68%, second only to Dwight Eisenhower's 71% in September 1955. Bush went on to lose the 1992 election to Bill Clinton.
True, but Bush's case was exceptional: he was still coming off his Desert Storm high, and the effects of the recession were not yet showing up in his approval rating. Perhaps Obama's standing is more comparable to that of Carter, who hit 32 percent in September 1979. Carter's numbers moved back up in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis, but then moved down again. Obama has already had his foreign-policy bump: after the bin Laden killing, his approval went up a few points for a few weeks. Unless the economy improves dramatically, he is in trouble. And today's announcement of a 9.1 percent unemployment rate is not a good sign for him.

The racial breakdown should also worry the reelection campaign. Approval is 85 percent among blacks, 33 percent among whites. The first number does not help him much, since African Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic anyway. The second could doom his chances.