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Behind The Numbers: Obama's Approval Rating

The latest CBS News/New York Times poll showed President Obama receiving a 66 percent approval rating from the public, his highest since taking office in January. How does that compare to other presidents' approval ratings?

It is certainly higher than the approval ratings of recent Presidents George W. Bush (53 percent) and Bill Clinton (55 percent) at this point in their presidencies, but it is by no means the highest that polls have recorded. Presidents Reagan, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Truman all received higher marks than President Obama at comparably early points in their presidencies.


Barack Obama (4/2009) ..........66%
George W. Bush (4/2001) .......53%
Bill Clinton (3/1993) ..................55%
George H. W. Bush (4/1989) ...61%
Ronald Reagan (4/1981) .........67%
Jimmy Carter (4/1977) ..............64%
Gerald Ford* (11/1974) .............47%
Richard Nixon* (4/1969) ...........61%
Lyndon Johnson* (1/1964) .......76%
John Kennedy* (4/1961) ...........78%
Dwight Eisenhower* (4/1953) ..73%
Harry Truman* (10/1945) ..........82%

(* Gallup data)

Not all Americans are fans of the new president. Just 31 percent of Republicans now approve of the job President Obama is doing, and a CBS News poll conducted just after the president took office found only 36 percent of Republicans approving. President Obama's high approval rating is the result of widespread approval among Democrats and strong approval from independents.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Such a partisan divide is not unusual at this point in a presidency. In an April 2001 CBS News Poll, just 27 percent of Democrats approved of the job George W. Bush was doing. Eight-nine percent of Republicans approved, and President Bush's overall approval rating was 53 percent. Partisanship was also evident in President Clinton's approval rating; in a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in March 1993, just 38 percent of Republicans approved of the job President Clinton was doing, but 70 percent of Democrats approved. One difference for the current president -- he receives higher approval ratings from independents than either Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton did.

President Obama's 66 percent approval rating comes at a time when the country is feeling the effects of the worst economic crisis and unemployment level in decades; but at least so far, Americans don't seem to be blaming the new president for those troubles.

The poll addressed the question of blame directly, asking respondents to select from a list who they thought was to blame for the current state of the nation's economy. 33 percent said the Bush Administration was responsible, and another 21 percent blamed Wall Street and financial institutions. Just 2 percent chose the Obama Administration.



Bush Administration .....33%
Wall Street .............21%
Congress ............... 11%
Obama Administration ....2%

Not surprisingly, there are partisan differences in the blame game -- 53 percent of Democrats hold the Bush Administration accountable for the economic situation, while just 14% of Republicans do. But more surprisingly, just 2 percent of Republicans blame the new Administration. Instead, Republicans blame Wall Street (27 percent) and Congress (22 percent).

Blaming a previous administration for economic problems is not new. In November 1982, a CBS News/New York Times exit poll asked who was more to blame for economic problems in the U.S. Thirty-eight percent of voters chose Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, and 48 percent chose "previous Democratic policies." In April 1991, just 26 percent of Americans who thought the country was in recession placed a lot of the blame on the policies of the (G.H.W.) Bush Administration, while 61 percent placed a lot of the blame on the policies of the Reagan Administration.

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