Analysis Of Presidential Job Approval Ratings

We’ve analyzed the Presidential Job Approval Ratings from Gallup since Truman to Trump.  It compliments our August 27 post,  Presidential Job Approval: Truman to Trump.

Political Junkies And Financial Types

Since the dollar index is highly correlated to President Trump’s approval ratings,  we believe the data are relevant not only for just political junkies but also financial types.

We do expect the president’s poll numbers to jump in the next few weeks, due to his performance in executing the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey.   In fact,  Gallup already has him up one point since the last weekly poll ending September 3rd.

The federal government’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a complete debacle and effectively was the nail in the coffin for Bush #43’s presidency and the beginning of the cyclical swing left in the country, in our opinion.

President Trump’s Prospects

We conclude after crunching the data, there is both good news and bad news for President Trump.

Good News

The good news, he starts with a very low bar.

The most unpopular president to enter office in the modern era (post-FDR), with a job approval around inauguration day of just 45 points,  six points below the next lowest,  Bush #43.   He dropped 10 points a little over 200 days in office, bottoming at 35 percent on August 27th.   The latest poll, ending September 3rd, has him at 36 percent approval. which is only 14 points off Harry Truman’s all-time low.

Therefore the potential upside for President Trump’s job approval  has a lot of runway. That is if he didn’t see peak approval at the start of his term as did, Truman, Ford, and Obama with LBJ very close (see last table).

Bad News

The bad news is that President Trump inherited a relatively strong economy with full employment and a bubblious relatively expensive stock market.

Only three presidents have left office with higher approval ratings than when they entered the Oval  – Reagan, Clinton, and Bush #41.

Both Reagan and Clinton inherited terrible economies, either in deep recession and or coming out of recession, and both oversaw huge stock market runs.

The fact that Bush #41 was not reelected to a second term with such a high approval rating at the end of his term was mainly due to Ross Perot securing 18.91 percent of the vote as a third party candidate in the 1992 general election.  The economy was also in recession during part of the 1992 campaign  President Bush pinned his election loss on then Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, due to high interest rates.

The upshot?   Inherit a weak economy and recesson and sluggish stock market at the start of your presidential term.

Highest Average For An Administration

President Kennedy has the highest average job approval rating at 70 percent during an administration.  Unfortunately, his term was tragically cut short and served just a little over 1,000 days.  His popularity was declining before he was assassinated in November 1963, hitting a low of 56 percent in September of 1963.  His approval rating at 221 days into office was 76 percent, compared to Trump’s 36 percent.

Thus far, Trump has lowest overall average but there is still lots of time to improve.  Truman and Carter drag up the rear.



Highest At Start Of An Administration

Not coincidental both President Truman and Johnson have the highest job approvals at the start of their administration as both inherited their presidencies after the death of a popular predecessor.  Both Truman and LBJ (see chart) went almost straight down after the start of their terms.  Truman’s job approval was 75 percent 209 days into his administration versus Trump’s 36 percent.  Truman also has the lowest approal rating at 22 percent.




Highest At End Of An Administration

President Clinton and Reagan ended their adminsistrations with the highest approval ratings.   Strong economic growth and big stock market gains  helped, though the bubble did burst before President Clinton left office.  President Clinton had a 44 percent approval rating 217 days into office versus President Trump’s 36 percent.

President Nixon resigned with a 24 percent approval rating.



Largest Differential — End From Start Of An Administration

President Reagan finished 12 points higher at the end of his term than the start. Along with Clinton and Bush #41, they were the only presidents to finish their terms more popular than when they started.   President Reagan’s approval numbers were 60 percent after 209 days in office versus President Trump’s 36 percent.

President Truman’s job approval collapsed by 55 points from the start to the finish of his term.  “Give ’em hell, Harry!”

History has been kind to President Truman, however, with the latest poll of presidential historians ranking him 6th best president of all time.


Gallup_6_End to Start


Highest Approval Point Of An Administration

Both President Bush #43 and #41 have the highest recorded job approval ratings at a given point, mainly as the result of wars.  President Bush #43’s job approval rating shot up 39 points after 9/11.   Both presidents squandered their high approval ratings.   W.’s approval rating at 218 days into office was 55 percent.

President Obama, Nixon, and Reagan have the lowest highs.




Lowest Approval Point Of An Administration

President Truman has the lowest recorded approval rating at 22 percent with President Nixon not far behind at 24 percent when he resigned.

President Kennedy never fell below a 55 percent.


Gallup_8_Low Point

Highest Differential from Low to High

President Truman and President Bush #43 have the highest peak to trough differential in their approval ratings.  President Bush #41 is the only other president in the 60’s with President Carter not even close. at 47 percent.   Probably due to  “the higher you are, the farther you fall” syndrome.   All three have the highest point approval ratings.

President Obama and JFK along with President Trump have the smallest differential.


Gallup_9_Low to High

Peak Approval At Start Of Term

Finally, we rank the presidents by their peak approval relative to the beginning of their terms.    Presidents Truman, Ford, Obama, and Trump had/have their highest approval ratings at the beginning of their term.

President Bush #43 shot up 38 points after the start of his term as the result of the 9/11 attacks

Gallup_10_Peak Approval

Data Reference Table



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