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Analyzing Presidential Approval Ratings: Obama’s Leadership and Historical Trends

Jul 4, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jul 4, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Presidential approval rating is a very important benchmark for presidential success or failure in the United States. Predictable argument has it that economic performance is a key factor in determining the ratings of a sitting president. An underperforming economy thwarts the chances of any incumbent president to be re-elected (González-Bailón et al 121-143). This paper takes issue with this conservative wisdom. It establishes that while both unemployment and inflation are statistically important determinants of presidential approval, their significance is not practical and economical. In this study, the researcher wanted to measure President Obama’s approval rating and hence determine how he compares to other presidents. The poll thus compares President Obama to all other presidents since the time of Franklin Roosevelt. It allows current trends interpretation with regard to Obama’s presidency and compares it to others.

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The focus of this poll was to measure President Obama approval rating of the way he is handling his presidential job and the way his presidential performance compares to that of the previous presidents. This would give the correlation between his performance and his popularity rate as an analytic tool (Silver 1). In trying to answer the question, ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?’, it becomes possible to use an equation that acts as an influential factor in the prediction of presidential popularity. The rating of presidents indicates the percentages of people responding to opinion polls in approving how the presidents perform at their jobs. The numbers are important as they try to provide theories and guidelines employed by incumbent government and the opposition as well. The poll results give an insight suggesting the thinking of voters; hence influence the process of campaigns and potential voters.

Poll Question

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?

Poll Objective

The general objective of this poll was to measure President Obama approval rating of the way he is handling his presidential job.

Historical Trends

Obama’s Presidential Greatness

President Obama’s standing in polls has evolved just like most of his predecessors in the ratings. A poll conducted by Gallup in February 2011 established that Americans who viewed Obama as the greatest president ever were 5% of the population. One year later, the same poll found that 10% of population considered Obama an outstanding president. On the other hand, 60% believed Obama would finally make history as an average, below average or poor. Scholarly studies have shown inconsistencies. Siena College Institute Survey conducted the earliest scholarly poll that included Obama in 2010 and it ranked him as the 15th greatest American president (Real Clear Politics 1).

How Obama Compare to the Other Presidents

According to a poll conducted by Weatherford (22) of American Political science association on the topic President Obama’s current place in presidential history, results of the survey included findings similar to other previous polls and other exiting evidence.

(González-Bailón, Sandra, Banchs & Andreas Kaltenbrunner 23)


Study Population and Sampling Technique

The researcher employed Probability sampling to select 20 domestic undergraduate students from Saint Louis University who participated in the poll. Selection focused on Simple Random Technique and the sampled population participated in the poll. In order to minimize gender bias in the participation, the population study equally distributed owing to the fact that no gender in the university obviously superseded the other.

Sample Size Determination

Sample size was drawn purely from students in the Saint Louis University. The poll used fisher et al method of 1998 to establish sample size given that the poll had less than 10,000 respondents. The formula below was used:-

n = Z2pq/d2

Given that:

n = desired sampling size > 10,000

Z = Standard normal (95% df) is 1.96

P = Population

q = 1 – p

d = Degree of accuracy at 0.05 for 95% df

p = Proportion of objective population projected at 0.30 confidence level

q=1 – p

q=1 – 0.06

q= 0.94

The sample size was 20.

Data Collection Procedures

Collection of data in the poll was verbal and aided through a tape recorder. The poll data was evaluated quantitatively taking into account the primary data collection method used.

Collection of data from Obama’s approval rating poll done in one day following the small sample size used and the small study area involved.

Results and Interpretation

Below are the results of the poll based on the poll question: ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?’

Approve – indicates poll voting of those who were satisfied with Obama’s job.

Disapprove – indicates poll voting of those individuals not satisfied with how Obama is running the United States.

No.Data 11/9Approve Disapprove
3Male Disapprove
4Male Disapprove
6Male Disapprove
7Male Disapprove
10Male Disapprove
11Female Disapprove
13Female Disapprove
14Female Disapprove
15Female Disapprove
16Female Disapprove
18Female Disapprove
19Female Disapprove

Only 40% of the sampled population approved Obama’s presidency in the rating. That was represented by 3 female and 5 male. A number of observations related to the results of the poll merit further discussion. First, linear regression modeling was used to estimate the influence of Obama’s greatness to his last presidential campaigns. This analytical tool has power to estimate the effect of a predictor variable on a dependent variable when other variables are controlled. Second, linear regression analysis requires that each factor examined in a model have a base reference group/factor. The reference factor used against the president’s rating is the overall performance in office.

Regression based on collected data gave the equation,:

Approval Rate: 40%

Disapproval Rate: 60%


Findings revealed that there is a close relationship between the polls and previous conducted polls. The sample used revealed valid results though it was too small to give a representative opinion of the entire United States population. These results on presidential approval rate however, impact significantly on the presidential campaigns in the USA. The concept appears to be true in other nations and states with similar government structures. The findings of this poll calls for further research into other vital factors that would influence the leadership of a country. Citizens engaged in these polls need further monitoring in an attempt to determine important aspects in the political development of an individual country. Based on the results, it is clear to see that Obama’s rating is a result of his contribution to the growth and development of the United States.


González-Bailón, Sandra, Rafael E. Banchs, and Andreas Kaltenbrunner. “Emotions, Public Opinion, and U.s. Presidential Approval Rates: a 5-Year Analysis of Online Political Discussions.” Human Communication Research. 38.2 (2012): 121-143. Print.

Silver, Nate. ‘Is Obama Toast? Handicapping The 2012 Election’. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/nate-silver-handicaps-2012-election.html?pagewanted=all>

Real Clear Politics,. ‘Realclearpolitics – Opinion, News, Analysis, Video And Polls’. Realclearpolitics.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.<http://www.realclearpolitics.com/?state=nwa>

Weatherford, M S. T. E. P. H. E. N. “The Wages of Competence: Obama, the Economy, and the 2010 Midterm Elections.” Presidential Studies Quarterly. 42.1 (2012): 8-39. Print.

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