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Obama's Second Year Widened the Partisan Divide on How He Is Seen

3 years ago
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Even some of Sarah Palin's supporters might concede she is a polarizing figure. But she gets some stiff competition on that score from President Obama. For a chief executive in the second year in office, he had a wider divide between how the two major political parties see him than any chief executive dating back to Dwight Eisenhower during comparable points in their terms, according to Gallup's numbers for 2010.

Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing by 81 percent last year compared to 13 percent for Republicans, a gap of 68 points. That was significantly above the "party gap" for Ronald Reagan in his second year (56 points) and Bill Clinton (54 points) in his sophomore year. The president with the smallest partisan gap was Jimmy Carter in 1978-79, for whom it was 29 points.

If all the years of previous presidents' terms are considered, Obama does get edged out by former President George W. Bush. In the years between 2004 and 2007, when Bush's popularity plummeted during his second term, the "party gap" for him ranged between 70 to 76 points. But Obama's 68 point gap in his second year is not far behind. The gap for Obama in his first year in office was 65 points.

When the entire terms of presidents who served before Obama are included, Bush accounted for 6 of the 10 most polarized presidential years.

Gallup notes a trend in recent years, saying "none of the presidents prior to Reagan averaged more than a 40-point gap in approval ratings by party. But from Reagan through Obama, all except George H.W. Bush have averaged more than a 50-point divide in party ratings."

While Obama's job approval rating overall has been rising following last year's lame duck session in which the Bush era tax cuts and unemployment benefits were extended, and his handling of the Arizona shooting tragedy, Gallup says "the rise in Obama's public support has not necessarily meant a reduction in the polarization of views about him, as there continues to be a nearly 70-point gap between Democratic and Republican approval ratings of the president."

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