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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Polarization and the Presidency

Gallup reports:
The historically high gap between partisans' job approval ratings of Barack Obama continued during Obama's third year in office, with an average of 80% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans approving of the job he was doing.

In fact, Obama's Year Three average 68-percentage-point partisan gap is tied for the fourth highest in Gallup records dating back to the Eisenhower administration. Only George W. Bush's fourth, fifth, and sixth years in office showed higher degrees of political polarization. Together, Bush and Obama account for the 7 most polarized years, and 8 of the top 10.

Notably, 3 of the top 10 years coincided with presidents' re-election years, including Bush in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1996, and Ronald Reagan in 1984. In fact, a president's fourth year tends to be the most polarized, as has been the case for each of the last six elected presidents. Since 1953, Eisenhower is the only elected president whose fourth year was not his most polarized; his sixth year -- a midterm election year -- was the one with the largest gap in his approval ratings by party.