Report

Obama's Approval Rating Slips Amid Division Over Economic Proposals

  • March 16, 2009

Nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president. About a month ago, 64% approved of his job performance. Obama's disapproval ratings have grown significantly over this time; in early February, just 17% said they disapproved of the president's handling of his job; today, 26% do so.

The public's assessments of Obama's job performance are similar to those seen for Ronald Reagan (60%), George H.W. Bush (56%) and George W. Bush (55%) at comparable points in their presidencies. By contrast, the public gives Obama a better job approval rating than Bill Clinton (53%). In March 1977, approval ratings for Jimmy Carter (70%) were significantly higher than Obama's are today.

Over the past month, disapproval of Obama's job performance has increased substantially among Republicans and independents, while Democratic evaluations remain overwhelmingly positive. Today, a majority of Republicans (56%) disapprove of Obama's job performance, up from 41% in February. More than two-thirds of conservative Republicans (68%) have a negative opinion about the way Obama is handling his job, up 21 points over the past month. By contrast, opinions about Obama among moderate and liberal Republicans have been more stable and more positive. About half of moderate and liberal Republicans (49%) say they approve of his job as president while 30% disapprove; these percentages have changed little since February. 

Most independents continue to approve of Obama's performance (57% today, down from 63% last month). However, disapproval among independents has risen 13 points since February. As was the case in February, few Democrats express disapproval of Obama's job performance (88% approve of his handling of the job, while just 5% disapprove).

Those with household incomes of $75,000 or more continue to express disapproval of Obama at higher levels than those at lower income levels, and disapproval has grown considerably among those in this group. Today, 37% express disapproval; in February, just 24% did so.

Opinions of Obama's overall job performance also have declined significantly since February among Catholics, particularly white non-Hispanic Catholics. The balance of Obama's job approval ratings remains favorable among Catholics overall (59% approve, 28% disapprove), although this reflects a 14-point increase in disapproval over the past month. White non-Hispanic Catholics are more evenly divided in their assessments of Obama's job performance (47% approve, 41% disapprove); in February, those in this group approved of Obama's job performance by more than three-to-one (61% approved, 20% disapproved).

Read the full report Obama's Approval Rating Slips Amid Division Over Economic Proposals on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.