By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Barack Obama is leaving the presidency popular and with a high favorability rating, just not as high as he entered the office. According to a Gallup Poll released on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Obama’s favorability is the second highest of all presidents since 1992, when they began looking at favorability. Obama’s favorability is on par with his approval rating. The president is not even the most popular member of his outgoing administration, First Lady Michelle Obama has a higher favorability as most first ladies do and even Vice President Joe Biden is proving more popular.
According to the Gallup poll, Obama has a 58 percent favorability rating, when he entered office in 2009 the president had 79 percent favorability his highest. In general, Obama has averaged a 53 percent favorability rating. His first year was his best where he had a 55 to 69 percent rating, and most recently after the 2016 election where Obama saw a 61 and 62 percent favorability rating. At his lowest, Gallup notes, the President Obama had a 42 percent rating just after the 2014 mid-term elections, where the GOP regained control of the Senate and saw momentum in the House and general support.
Of the four presidents, Gallup tracked favorability ratings for, Obama will see himself in second place after Republican George H.W. Bush, who left office in 1993 after losing his reelection bid, but still managed to have 62 percent favorability by January 1993. Ranking after Obama is Democrat Bill Clinton who had 57 percent favorability in January 2001. Only Republican George W. Bush embattled by two long and unpopular wars and an economic collapse fared the worst, with only a 40 percent favorability rating.
First Ladies are history more popular than their president husbands are, and Michelle Obama is no exemption to that rule. First Lady Michelle has maintained her favorability during the last eight years, entering in 2009 with a 68 percent rating and leaving with the same number. Mrs. Obama’s highest numbers were two months into the presidency where she saw a 72 percent rating.
Vice President Biden sees his best numbers to date leaving office with a 61 percent favorability rating. Biden’s popularity seems to be recent, at his highest point after the 2008 election, the VP only had a 59 percent rating, and throughout the Obama administration Biden only saw a 38 to 49 percent favorability rating, his number only rose after the 2016 election where they hit 57 percent and kept climbing.
Obama higher favorability ratings in the lame duck quarter of his presidency are on par with improving approval rating, where he last scored a 59 percent according to the Jan. 17–19 Gallup Daily tracking, with a 57 in his last weekly poll. Obama had an average of 47.9 percent for his both terms in office, 49.1 percent approval rating for his first term, and a 46.7 percent for his second term. At his highest point, Obama had a 69 percent approval rating in January 2009, and at his lowest points he had 38 percent in August and October 2011, and then again in September
Gallup called Obama’s approval rating average “sub-par” and “lackluster,” but they “predict he will go down in history as a better president than several of his predecessors who had higher average approval ratings.” President Obama was always more popular personally than was his policies and accomplishments; he ends his presidency the same way well liked by an American public anxious about the future administration and nostalgic for the last one.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.