Obama’s approval rating from his first day to his last, in charts

Obama’s approval ratings are unusually high for an exiting president.
Obama’s approval ratings are unusually high for an exiting president.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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US president Barack Obama will leave office with an approval rating of 57% according to a survey from the polling firm Gallup taken from Jan. 9-15, 2017. Obama’s exiting approval rating is 23 percentage points higher than former US president George W. Bush’s when he left office, but nine points lower than Bill Clinton’s.

Although still popular, Obama’s approval rating is 10 points lower than when he took office. This is fairly typical. Seven out of the 11 presidents that have served since Gallup started tracking approval ratings left office with a lower rating than they started with. For example, Ronald Reagan’s was 10% higher than when he started, while Lyndon Johnson ended up more than 30% lower. Obama’s approval rating reached its nadir of 40% in late 2014, but has been climbing over the last several years.

Not every group’s approval of Obama has changed to the same degree. In fact, among some groups he is as popular as ever.

The greatest divergence in Obama’s popularity was along racial/ethnic lines. While Obama’s approval plummeted among whites during his presidency, it increased slightly among nonwhites overall, due to a six point jump among blacks and a relatively small dip with Hispanics. These are the only groups for which Gallup has published detailed data.

Changes in Obama’s approval rating also differed significantly by age group. Among 18-29 year olds, Obama’s popularity has barely budged, while it has seen a double digit decline in every other age group.

The very largest deviations are based in party affiliation. Democrats loved Obama from the beginning, but not to the extent they do now: they are nearly universally happy with him in 2017. At the same time, Obama’s popularity with Republicans has plummeted. It may be hard to believe, but when Obama was inaugurated, his approval rating among Republicans was above 40%. Within eight months, it fell below 20%, and never rose above that threshold again. Today, it’s at just 17%.

According to a Gallup poll taken from Jan. 4-8, 2017 US president-elect Donald Trump’s favorability rating sits at 40%. This is extremely low for an incoming president—each of the last three presidents entered with favorability ratings above 60%. Upon Trump’s inauguration, the US will move from having a generally well-liked leader to having one that is historically unpopular.