Washington: With Republicans overwhelmingly turning against him and Democrats remaining still largely supportive, President Barack Obama has received the most polarised approval ratings ever recorded during a president's first year in office, according to a new Gallup poll.
The 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats' 88 percent and Republicans' 23 percent average job approval ratings for Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, the public opinion research firm reported on Monday.
At the end of his first year, former president Bill Clinton averaged a smaller 52-point gap-not because Republicans liked him any more than they like Obama, but because Democrats didn't like him as much, it said.
President George W Bush averaged a 45-point gap; during his first year, he had almost universal support from Republicans, while nearly half of Democrats were still giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Looking at the data going further back in history, it's evident that the US has grown far more polarised since the age of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.
Overall, Obama averaged 57 percent job approval among all Americans from his inauguration to the end of his first full year on January 19.
He came into office seeking to unite the country, and his initial approval ratings ranked among the best for post-World War II presidents, including an average of 41 percent approval from Republicans in his first week in office, Gallup noted.
But he quickly lost most of his Republican support, with his approval rating among Republicans dropping below 30 percent in mid-February and below 20 percent in August.
Throughout the year, his approval rating among Democrats exceeded 80 percent, and it showed little decline even as his overall approval rating fell from the mid-60s to roughly 50 percent.
"Prior to Ronald Reagan, no president averaged more than a 40-point gap in approval ratings by party during his term; since then, only the elder George Bush has averaged less than a 50-point gap," Gallup said.
Thus, the extraordinary level of polarisation in Obama's first year in office is a combination of declining support from Republicans coupled with high and sustained approval from Democrats, it said.
Noting that Obama still has three years left in his first term and possibly seven more as president, Gallup said there is much time for the polarisation of his approval ratings to subside. However, if the current level of polarisation persists through the end of his term, Obama would exceed Bush as the president with the most polarised approval ratings.
First Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 13:07