USA Politics First Look

Obama’s approval rating is the highest since his first year in office

Despite widely partisan politics, Obama closes out his White House tenure with a 60 percent approval rating, suggesting that the political center continues to support him as president.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with a guest after a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP | Caption

As President Obama counts down his final days in the White House, a recent CNN/ORC poll shows that he will close out his presidency with a 60 percent approval rating, the highest number he has achieved since his first June in office.

The year 2016 could be viewed as a complicated one for the president, as he watched his successor win the election by campaigning largely against his policies. Yet Obama will walk away with one of the higher approval ratings a modern president has ever achieved at the end of his term, coming in just behind Ronald Reagan, who had approval ratings of 64 percent, and Bill Clinton, who had ratings of 66 percent.

Moreover, 25 percent of Americans surveyed say they believe that Obama was one of the nation’s greatest presidents, far outstripping Presidents Reagan (whom 14 percent said was one of the greatest), Clinton (11 percent), George H.W. Bush (five percent), and George W. Bush (four percent).

And another 65 percent surveyed said they view Obama’s presidency as a success overall, with 49 percent attributing that to his own personal strengths rather than circumstances beyond his control, according to CNN.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 61 percent approve of President Obama’s economic policies, with 53 percent supporting his handling of terrorist threats and 52 percent approve of his stance on health care – a surprisingly high number considering that healthcare was one of the primary items in President-elect Donald Trump’s overall campaign, with Trump frequently promising to immediately repeal the affordable care act known as "Obamacare.”

But despite the strong numbers, the recent polling data does also reflect the incredibly partisan nature of the nation's current political climate.

While 54 percent of Democrats surveyed say they consider Obama to be one of history’s greatest US presidents, 54 percent of Republicans surveyed say they consider his overall performance to be poor.

So although he earned 95 percent approval ratings within his own party, President Obama had only 18 percent approval among Republicans. Both Presidents Clinton and Reagan, by contrast, had over 90 percent approval ratings within their own parties, while 39 percent of Republicans approved of Clinton and 38 percent of Democrats approved of Reagan at the end of their terms.

The same CNN/ORC poll shows that President-elect Trump will take office on Friday with a 40 percent approval rating, the lowest of any modern incoming president, one that is 44 points below Obama at the time of his initial inauguration.

"What's happening here is the public fight that Mr. Trump is having with CNN and other media groups has taken some skin off his poll numbers and it's gone down,” Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican from Wisconsin, told CNN.

But Trump himself dismissed the poll numbers on Twitter, saying “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.”

According to CNN, public impressions of Trump have continued dropping since the election in November with his overall disapproval rating climbing to 52 percent. The percentage of people saying they have lost confidence in his presidential ability has grown 10 points.