Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Second term presidential approval trends
Estimated linear trends through October of post-war second term presidential approval.
President Bush has started his second term with falling approval ratings. In this, he is not significantly different from Truman or Eisenhower in the rate of decline through October of their second terms. However, President Bush started his second term at a lower overall approval rating of any second term president since opinion poll data have been available.
To clarify the differences between administrations, I estimated the simple linear trend in approval through October of each second term. This deliberately ignores the details to focus on the broad trend and not the bumps and wiggles.
Four of the six presidents began their second term with a decline: Truman, Eisenhower and Bush with declines of -1.1, -1.7 and -1.3% per month respectively. Nixon's Watergate problems produced by far the most dramatic rate of decline, -4.4% per month.
Two presidents gained support in the first 9 months of their second terms: Reagan at a +0.38% per month rate, and Clinton at +0.34% per month.
From this perspective, President Bush's rate of decline is not at all exceptional. Where he does suffer is from a lower initial approval rating combined with the negative trend. Truman started his second term 5% above Bush's 52% estimated approval. Clinton started his second term insignificantly more popular than Bush, but his postive trend improved his standing over time.
(The estimates presented here are linear trend estimates from Gallup Poll data for the various presidents. The data are available free of charge at the Roper Center here. Because these are linear trend estimates, the actual percentage support at the beginning of the Bush second term (estimated at 52%) differs from any single poll taken near that time.)