60% Of Americans Disapprove Of Obama’s Handling Of The Economy

The President’s job approval ratings when it comes to the economy have been fairly bad for quite some time now. Indeed, according to the poll averages, his disapproval number on this issue slipped over 50% some time before the end of his first year in office and has stayed above 50% ever since then. The latest Gallup Poll, though, provides and even starker number for the White House, and lays bear the risk the President faces if the Presidential election ends up being a referendum on the economy after all:

PRINCETON, NJ — Three months before the election, President Barack Obama gets good marks from Americans for his handling of terrorism, fair marks for education and foreign affairs, but poor marks on immigration and three big economic issues: the federal budget deficit, creating jobs, and the economy generally.

These ratings, from a Gallup poll conducted Aug. 9-12, are similar to Americans’ previous ratings of Obama’s performance on each issue, as measured in 2011 and early February 2012. Only his approval on terrorism (58%) is down slightly from the peak level (63%) seen last fall after the killing of Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. Also, his approval on education, at 49%, is up slightly from 41% last August.

Yes, the numbers have been consistent, they’ve been consistently bad and, from an historical point of view, don’t exactly portend well for the President’s political future:

Obama’s ratings on the economy are significantly worse than all three prior successful presidential incumbents at this same point in their first term, according to the available Gallup trends. His 36% approval rating on the economy is well below George W. Bush’s rating in August 2004 (46%), Bill Clinton’s in August 1996 (54%), and Ronald Reagan’s in July 1984 (50%). Still, in terms of comparisons to presidents who lost, Obama’s economic rating is substantially better than that of George H.W. Bush in July 1992 (18%). Gallup did not measure Americans’ approval of Jimmy Carter on the economy in 1980.

Obama’s single worst rating of the seven issues measured in the current poll is for the federal budget deficit. However it is unclear how problematic this will be for him. His 30% approval rating on the deficit falls about halfway between Clinton’s in August 1996 (43%) and Reagan’s in July 1984 (23%).

All of this makes one wonder why the Romney campaign seems intent on turning this election into a “big picture” election, or talking about issues like Medicare. Clearly, it’s on the economy where the President is most vulnerable and, with numerous economic reports set to come out over the next three months, it’s unlikely that the public’s perception of him on this issue will improve much, if at all. This is what the Romney campaign should be focused on like a laser beam.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Economics and Business, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. george says:

    Yup, include me in that 60%. But the chances are Romney will be a lot worse (lower taxes, raise military spending). So, as usual in politics, a lot of that 60% are like me going to hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, meaning Obama in this case, unless something pretty drastic changes between now and election time.

  2. stonetools says:

    I thgink the answer is pretty easy, Doug. What’s the number one problem with the economy? Unemployment. When people say they are dissatisfied with Obama’s handling of the the economy, they mean he What’s hasn’t lowered the unemployment rate.
    What’s Mitt Romney’s plan to lower the unemployment rate? Paul Ryan’s .


    I think a major reason why is because of an odd contradiction one can see from the recent “Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs” released by Romney’s economics team. Romney has no actual interest in trying to bring unemployment down faster, which blunts the ability to really say anything about unemployment, but his economics team also wasn’t signing off on the far-right’s bizarro stimulus plans.

    There’s already been a lot written on how the paper distorts the research it cites. The paper claims to “speed up the recovery in the short run.” How? “By changing course from the policies of the current administration and ending economic uncertainty.” What are the bold policies to help those unemployed people President Obama ignored? Tax code reform, block-granting Medicaid, and repealing Dodd-Frank and Obamacare while making “cost-benefit analysis important features of regulation.”

    When you see that Romney has no plan at all to actually get people jobs (and neither Romney or the Republican Party has any plan either) its un-surpising that he can’t close the deal. After all, the main reason why the Republicans won big in 2010 was because Obama’s failure with jobs. The public aren’t idiots. They’ve seen two years of this Republican Congress , have seen zero attempts at job creation and seen neither Romney or Ryan say anything about job creation but platitudes about ” freeing up the private sector.”
    Meanwhile, there’s overwhelming scholarly consensus among economists that the only way back to even moderate job growth is a second round of fiscal stimulus-the very thing the Republicans have demagogued into political impossibility. The only way back to solving the unemployment issue is straight talk about stimulus-but it will never come from Romney or the Republicans.

  3. Mr. Prosser says:

    @george: Agreed. By the way Doug, did they do a poll on Congress based on those seven areas? Let’s see where those ratings are.

  4. bandit says:

    Pretty much the inverse of the percentage of people receiving gov’t handouts.

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I actually laughed at loud at the following portion of Gallup’s piece:

    Gallup did not measure Americans’ approval of Jimmy Carter on the economy in 1980.

    Well, gee whiz, Cassandra, why do you suppose they omitted that particular item? Geez. Gallup is a farce.

    In any event, I suspect Gallup here is having another broken watch moment. For this poll not surprisingly they canvassed “adults,” not even registered much less likely voters. Had they sampled likely voters the results would have been around 65% disapproval and around 25-30% approval, instead of the reported 60-36 margin. Right around 30% of the voting electorate is all but brain dead, so the adjusted figures would jibe with the demographics of it all.

    As for why Team Romney is not focused laser like on the economy, well, it’s because Team Romney is country club inept to the point of self-parody. But I think they’re slowly but surely (emphasis on “slowly”) figuring it out. In Romney’s recent CBS interview he kept talking about the economy even as the CBS drones were busy trying to bait him into addressing Biden’s “chains” comment and into throwing Ryan under the bus regarding the budget and Medicare. Perhaps that’s the start of a trend of cognitive serendipity on the part of Team Romney. Perhaps not. Time will tell.

  6. David M says:

    Disapproval of Obama from the left is possible, and it’s hard to see how Romney would be an improvement in that case.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    “…All of this makes one wonder why the Romney campaign seems intent on turning this election into a “big picture” election, or talking about issues like Medicare…”

    Um…because talking about the economy wasn’t working.
    Next question.

  8. Funny how everyone in the comments knows the answer, and has been explaining it to you patiently for the whole summer.

    Everybody knows that Great Recession was bad, people may be unhappy with the President’s performance, but they are smart enough to put most blame on Congress … and apparently they are not convinced that Romney has a better alternative.

    If 60% disapprove of Obama’s handling, poll results suggest that an even higher number disapprove of Mr. Romney’s plans (as far as they’ve been stated). Otherwise he would be leading.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Pretty much the inverse of the percentage of people receiving gov’t handouts.

    Umm, like the mortgage deduction? Or the child tax credit? Or TARP? Perhaps those weren’t the “gov’t handouts” you were referring to…

  10. bill says:

    well it’s only been 3+ yrs, give the guy a break… the media honeymoon isn’t even over yet.

  11. matt says:

    Had I been part of this poll I most certainly would of said I disprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. I guarantee that I would be way more disappointed by Romney if he was president.

  12. bill says:

    i hope they all vote, that’s all.