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How Do Obama's Ratings Compare?

Today marks six months since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and according to the latest CBS News Poll, conducted July 9-12, 2009, his overall approval rating stands at 57 percent - his first approval rating below 60 percent and his lowest since becoming president.

How does this compare to past presidents?

At 57 percent, President Obama's approval is slightly higher than that of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush (53 percent) and 18 points higher than the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton (39 percent) at similar points in their presidencies.

Still, President Obama's current marks are lower than those given to some earlier presidents: George H.W. Bush (67 percent), Jimmy Carter (62 percent), John F. Kennedy (75 percent), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (73 percent).

His approval rating is similar to that of President Ronald Reagan (59 percent), whose early months in office were also plagued by the nation's economic troubles. (It should be noted, however, that the unsuccessful assassination attempt made on President Reagan's life just 69 days into his presidency may have had an impact on his rating.) President Richard Nixon received a similar approval rating six months into office as well.

Approve Date
Obama 57%
G.W. Bush 53% 6/2001
Clinton 39% 6/1993
G.H.W. Bush 67% 7/1989
Reagan 59% 6/1981
Carter 62% 7/1977
Nixon 58% 7/1969 (Gallup)
Kennedy 75% 7/1961 (Gallup)
Eisenhower 73% 7/1953 (Gallup)

What does the six month approval rating tells us about a president's future success? Well, it's a mixed bag.

President Bush 41 and President Carter started out strong, but the nation's economic problems (and foreign policy issues in Mr. Carter's case) eventually took a toll on their approval ratings (a low of 31 percent for Mr. Bush and 26 percent for Mr. Carter). Neither were re-elected to a second term.

Richard Nixon was re-elected, but the Watergate scandal forced him to resign from office. Upon leaving office, just 24 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing, according to a Gallup Poll. At one point his rating reached 67 percent.

An improved economy and a tough stance against the Soviet Union propelled Ronald Reagan to a second term. His highest approval rating in a CBS News Poll was 67 percent.

As for President Clinton, many were critical of his priorities early, but the economy rebounded and he was re-elected. He would eventually be impeached by Congress but not removed from office. He reached his highest approval rating of 73 percent multiple times, including after the vote by the U.S. Senate NOT to convict him of perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

In August 2001, George W. Bush's approval rating was 50 percent -- the last time CBS News measured his rating prior to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. After that, his approval rating skyrocketed, reaching a high of 90 percent in October 2001. He was re-elected in 2004 but his approval rating suffered due to the ongoing war in Iraq and a sagging economy.

In November 2008, just before the election of Barack Obama, only 20 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as president – the lowest rating of any President. Mr. Bush has the distinction of having the highest approval rating for a president as well as the lowest.

Recent history indicates that the condition of the economy has been key to the success and failure of many presidents, but unforeseen events like scandal or war, can also impact views of a presidency.

Approve Disapprove Date
George W. Bush 90% 5 10/2001
George H. W. Bush 88% 8 3/1991
Harry Truman 87% 3 6/1945 (Gallup)
Franklin Roosevelt 84% 9 1/1942 (Gallup)
John F. Kennedy 83% 5 4/1961 (Gallup)
Dwight Eisenhower 79% 11 12/1956 (Gallup)
Lyndon Johnson 79% 9 2/1964 (Gallup)
Bill Clinton 73% 24 1/1998
Gerald Ford 71% 3 8/1974 (Gallup)
Richard Nixon 67% 19 11/1969 (Gallup)
Ronald Reagan 67% 18 4/1981
Jimmy Carter 64% 20 4/1977
Approve Disapprove Date
George W. Bush 20% 72 11/2008
Harry Truman 22% 64 2/1952 (Gallup)
Richard Nixon 24% 66 8/1974 (Gallup)
Jimmy Carter 26% 26 7/1979
George H.W. Bush 31% 59 7/1992
Lyndon Johnson 35% 52 8/1968 (Gallup)
Bill Clinton 36% 51 9/1994
Gerald Ford 37% 39 1/1975 (Gallup)
Ronald Reagan 41% 47 1/1983
Dwight Eisenhower 48% 36 3/1958 (Gallup)
Franklin Roosevelt 48% 43 8/1939
John F. Kennedy 56% 29 9/1963 (Gallup)

Jennifer De Pinto is manager of election and survey information for CBS News. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.
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