Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama averaged 83% job approval among Democrats and 13% among Republicans. That 70-percentage-point party gap in job approval ratings easily eclipses the prior high -- 61 points for George W. Bush. All other presidents had party gaps of 55 points or less.
Although the extreme polarization in Obama's ratings could reflect his policies and approach to governing, it also reflects the era in which he governed. The last three presidents -- Obama, Bush and Bill Clinton -- and four of the last five (including Ronald Reagan) averaged greater than 50-point party gaps in their job approval ratings.
George H.W. Bush was the recent exception. He averaged 67% overall approval during his first three years as president, when the U.S. economy was strong, the Cold War was ending and he led a successful war effort against Iraq. In those years, the party gaps in his approval rating were between 32 and 34 points, typical of presidents prior to Reagan. His last year in office, when the economy struggled to emerge from a recession, the party gap was 54 points, similar to the polarization level for the most recent presidents.