1 March 2006

Comparing Past Presidential Performance

In lieu of the recent abysmal presidential approval poll numbers, here is an interesting historical breakdown of past president approval highs and lows.
Bush G.W. 92% 10/01 34% 11/05
Clinton 73% 1/98,12/98 36% 5/93
Bush G.H.W. 89% 2/91 29% 8/92
Reagan 68% 5/81,5/86 35% 1/83
Carter 75% 3/77 28% 7/79
Ford 74% 8/74 37% 1/75,3/75
Nixon 67% 11/69,1/73 23% 1/74
Johnson 80% 3/64 35% 8/68
Kennedy 80% 3/62 56% 9/63
Eisenhower 79% 12/56 48% 4/58
Truman 87% 6/45 22% 2/52
Roosevelt 84% 1/42 48% 8/39

Some quick takes from this data.

  • A lot can change in a little over a year. Poppy Bush went from the top of the chart after the post Gulf War euphoria to lower depths than his son has thus far encountered, 18 months later.

  • Clintons's numbers climbed even amidst the Lewinsky scandal and he encountered low marks almost immediately after taking office. Despite a well financed and organized right wing jihad in opposition to him, the public still warmed up to Clinton.

  • An obvious conclusion - presidents are immensely popular during wartime. The numbers for Bush 43, Bush 41, and Roosevelt bear this out.

  • Though Roosevelt's low mark in 1939 indicates Americans weren't gung ho to embrace WWII voluntarily.

  • Since Kennedy, all our Presidents have had bouts of terrible approval numbers.


Roosevelt low numbers: that's because America, although a global power, had still not embraced Europe as essential allies and democratic brethren (alright, a little exaggerated).
People still referred to Hitler as Europes problem, as if a Nazi Europe and Communist Soviet Union would not affect the US (they were cold allies at the time). There were no doubt many college demonstrations, Republican criticism for aiding, or attempting to aid Europe.
However, I'm sure December 8, 1941 polls reflected much higher numbers.

As for the last comment, Naum, do yo think it's just because that's when polls became part of our public norm? In other words, do you think all second termers reflected bad numbers prior to Kennedy, if they had been conducted? I think that would be the case.

Truman's numbers were the subject of a blog article some time ago. Very interesting overall.