President Obama receives just a 37 percent approval rating for his handling of the economy in the latest CBS News Poll; his rating on this measure has been below 50 percent since late 2009. For even longer, Americans have volunteered the economy as the most important problem facing the country, and roughly four in five have said it has been in bad shape.
What might this mean for next November's presidential election?
Other presidents have also faced economic problems; some have successfully been re-elected, while others have not. President George H. W. Bush had a 41 percent approval rating on handling the economy at this point in 1991 -- but that dropped over the months to just 16 percent right before the 1992 election, and most likely cost him the outcome. In contrast, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton also faced economic challenges during their presidencies, but the economy improved during their first terms and their approval ratings on handling it rose as the election neared, and both were re-elected.
Improvement in economic approval ratings can go hand-in-hand with an increase in overall approval ratings as well; both Clinton and Reagan enjoyed an increase in their overall approval ratings as election day approached. In contrast, George H. W. Bush's approval rating continued to fall after his initial spike during the first Gulf War.