Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Unemployment & Presidential Approval

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president, he was greeted with both a high approval rating (64%) and a high unemployment rate (7.6%). Some 30 years earlier, Ronald Reagan entered the White House with a nearly identical unemployment rate (7.5%) and a little less political support (55% approval). Public approval of presidents since Reagan have all been shaped to some degree by unemployment, but only in Reagan’s first term has there been such a close correlation between the two indicators as there has been in the first year of Obama’s administration. In Reagan’s first term, by the end of 1982, unemployment stood at nearly 11% and 50% of the public was telling Gallup that it disapproved of how the president was handling his job. But the unemployment rate retreated in the following year, and Reagan was reelected by a large margin in 1984. As with Reagan, Obama has faced rising joblessness, and it appears to have taken a substantial toll on his job approval ratings. Obama’s approval rating fell to roughly 50% by the end of 2009 as unemployment rose to 10.0%. Read More