MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds President-elect Donald Trump with the lowest approval rating for an incoming president in the past 40 years.
Forty percent of people surveyed viewed him favorably. That is compared to 79 percent for Barak Obama and 56 percent for George W. Bush at the same time in their transitions.
So, when it comes to favorability ratings, how do our recent presidents stack up?
To determine how the presidents rank, we looked at job approval ratings in Gallup polls since 1945. We used one question and one poll for consistency, but still found it is a difficult question to answer.
“The simple answer is it’s not so easy to tell us overall who is the most popular or who’s had the highest approval ratings because it depends on where we’re looking,” said David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University.
According to Gallup, John Kennedy had the highest overall job approval average throughout his presidency at 70 percent. That is 25-percentage-points higher that the lowest average of 45 percent for both Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.
“It does surprise us because, again, if we look at what historians would say in terms of great American presidents, Harry Truman often makes it to the top ten,” Schultz said.
Polls often fluctuate over even short periods of time. Eisenhower’s approval ratings ranged from 48 percent to 79 percent, and Lyndon Johnson from 35 percent to 79 percent.
The highest approval rating for a recent president at one specific time was 90 percent for George W. Bush in September of 2001, followed closely by 89 percent for George H.W. Bush in February of 1991 following the invasion of Iraq.
The lowest approval rating was 22 percent for Harry Truman in February of 1952 as the Korean War dragged on. That was only slightly lower than Richard Nixon’s 24 percent in August of 1974, right before he resigned.
Schultz says approval ratings tell more than just the popularity of a particular president at a particular time. He says they could be reflecting the country’s partisan divide or a judgement about the state of the economy.
“It’s telling us the state of public opinion. Do people like them?” Schultz said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean do they support their agenda. It could be about their personality.