Obama Approval at Record Low 42%

President Obama's approval is at its lowest point to date, matching President Clinton's in 1994. It's 14 points higher than his predecessor's.

President Obama’s approval is at its lowest point to date:

President Barack Obama is contending with the lowest approval rating of his 20-month presidency, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds. The president’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent – an all time low in CNN polling and 8 points lower than where Obama was only three weeks ago. Moreover, 56 percent of all Americans think the president has fallen short of their expectations.

The president’s sagging poll numbers couldn’t come at a worse time for congressional Democrats, themselves facing a nine-point deficit in the so-called “generic ballot” question heading into the midterm elections. In fact, the president’s approval rating is the same as that of President Clinton’s in 1994 – the midterm election year that saw Republicans wrest control of both the House and Senate.

The numbers aren’t shockingly bad, given the dreadful state of the economy.   And it’s silly that this is somehow going to drag down Democrats’ chances in November; Obama’s approval is simply a proxy for theirs, so we’re measuring the same thing twice.

In even worse news for congressional Democrats, likely voters say they are considerably more likely to vote for a candidate the president opposes than one he supports. On the other hand, 50 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a Tea Party-backed candidate while a third of Americans said Tea Party support would dissuade their vote for a candidate.

That data tells us absolutely nothing of interest.

Still, the president can take some solace in the fact several past presidents have been beset by slumping numbers at the 2-year mark: In addition to Clinton, both Reagan and Jimmy Carter found their support at 42 percent at this point in their first term. Of course, Clinton and Reagan went on to big reelection wins only two years later.

And George H.W. Bush was in the 90’s well into 1991 and went on to lose big the next year, his approval having dropped to 29% in July.      And Obama’s 42% is still fantastically higher than the 28% his predecessor had in May 2008.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. john personna says:

    I thought Tyler Cowen and Matt Yglesias made a pretty good case for (general, systemic) pessimism:

    What we think about the chief is often just a reflection of what we feel about the tribe.

  2. Tano says:

    And it also should be mentioned, that this poll is a bit of an outlier. Even Rasmussen has Obama at 45, as does the RCP average of polls.

  3. Pete says:

    Nobody polled me, but I’ll give him a zero for ideas, a ten for weaseling, a ten for acting, a ten for opportunism. I’ll forgive the hapless dreamers who voted for him because the alternative was really bad.

  4. john personna says:

    I thought “Wall Street’s attacks could turn President Obama into a true populist” was interesting.


    It’s not quite what Pete sees, unless I misunderstand him.

  5. Pete says:

    jp, I wouldn’t take too much out of the WaPo article. Wall St. and big business have been in bed with big govt for decades. It is in their interest to protect their turf by purchasing that protection from their friends in govt. Just like the politicians, big business and Wall St. denigrate the pols in public, then treat them to goodies in private.

  6. Eric Florack says:

    here is little to no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is going to be a massive change in Washington , come November, and probably an even bigger one, come 2013. There’s also little doubt as to exactly why. The Democrats and their policies have been a massive failure. Not because they failed to get their policies enacted, but because they did manage to get their policies enacted. Trouble was, they were the wrong policies. They always are, it’s just very seldom that how wrong they were and are gets so clearly demonstrated. The last time was during the Carter misadministration. Obama is actually giving Carter, bad as he was, a run for the record of “Worst President Ever. ” Again, this is mostly due to Obama’s undeniable success in getting far leftist policies enacted.

    Lefties… wait no longer… this IS in fact the change you demanded. hat you now dislike what you see backs the old adage about being careful what you wish for.

  7. anjin-san says:

    A “record” for Obama himself, but, as the numbers show, not a record in any meaningful way:


    Order President P/M[13] Highest Approval Lowest Approval High-Low Highest Disapproval Approval Average [12]
    44[9] Obama 29.2 69 (1/22/09) 41 (8/17/10, 8/18/10) 28 52 (8/17/10, 8/18/10) 53[5]
    43[14] Bush (G.W.) 2.9 90 (9/21/01) 25 (10/3/08, 10/10/08, 10/31/08) 65 71 (10/10/08) 49.4
    42[15] Clinton 2.5 73 (12/19/98) 37 (5/26/93) 36 54 (9/6/94) 55.1
    41[16] Bush (G.H.W.) 2.8 89 (2/28/91) 29 (7/31/92) 60 60 (7/31/92) 60.9
    40[17] Reagan 1.4 68 (5/16/86) 35 (1/28/83) 33 56 (1/28/83) 52.8
    39[18] Carter 1.9 75 (3/18/77) 28 (6/29/79) 47 59 (6/29/79) 45.5
    38[19] Ford 1.2 71 (8/16/74) 37 (3/28/75) 34 46 (4/18/75, 11/21/75) 47.2
    37[20] Nixon 1.4 67 (1/26/73) 24 (8/2/74) 43 66 (8/2/74) 49.1
    36[21] Johnson 1.3 79 (2/28/64) 35 (8/7/68) 44 52 (8/7/68, 3/10/68) 55.1
    35[22] Kennedy 1.2 83 (3/8/62) 56 (9/12/63) 27 30 (9/12/63, 11/8/63) 70.1
    34[23] Eisenhower 1.2 79 (12/14/56) 48 (3/27/58) 31 36 (3/27/58) 65.0
    33[24] Truman 0.7 87 (6/1/45) 22 (2/9/52) 65 67 (1/6/52) 45.4
    32[25] Roosevelt (F.D.) 1.0 84 (1/8/42) 48 (8/18/39) 36 46 (5/22/38, 5/29/38, 11/7/38) 62.4[26]

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    If you take these polls seriously Jim you’re our to lunch. What could possibly have caused the president to have lost eight points in three weeks? They are bs for political junkies.

  9. mannning says:

    Oh happy days! Any hint of rejection of the Obama Administration is gleefully accepted, and touted as a harbringer of election outcomes to be.

    For once we can ignore that adage about being careful of what we wish for, that is: a turn to the right; a housecleaning of leftists in the government, starting with Obama himself; a dusting off of reliance on the Constitution; admonition of the SCOTUS for being too progressive and activist; election of more and more conservative legislators; fiscal sanity emerging as spending is brought under control and the national debt begun to be worked down; a thorough defusing of the headlong push for more federal government; elitism put on the run; czars leaving the WH in droves, the economy recovering and jobs proliferating— all because a poll or two put Obama in the toilet!

    Not just yet, but let us help it all along! Fond hopes and changes, though, aren’t they?

    “If wishes were horses, all beggars would ride.”