President Barack Obama is only more popular than Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon at this point in his presidency, according to a new survey released Monday.
And Obama is in danger of following in the footsteps of George W. Bush and Harry Truman, whose popularity tracked closely with Obama's current rating. Both Bush and Truman saw their lowest approval ratings in their final years of their second presidential term, according to Gallup.
An analysis released Monday by the polling firm showed Obama's approval rating averaged 47.9 percent during this quarter, marking a decline in the six months following his election.
"Obama's best quarterly average to date was during his first quarter in office, during the honeymoon phase of his presidency, when he averaged 63 percent approval," wrote Jeff Jones, a Gallup poll analyst in a memo. "The more recent decline in Obama's job approval rating is similar to what Gallup has observed for U.S. economic confidence [surveys]."
Jones said Obama's current popularity places him smack in the middle of the post-World War II era, with Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton enjoying higher popularity at the same point in their time at the White House. Johnson and Nixon, whose popularity was lower than Obama's, were both enduring the toughest periods of their presidencies, with Johnson engaged in the Vietnam War and Nixon embroiled in the Watergate scandal.
But the trajectory Obama is most in danger of mirroring is that of Truman and Bush, Jones said.
"Obama has ended U.S. involvement in Iraq and plans to end U.S. engagement in Afghanistan next year; and the economy, though still sluggish, has consistently grown since the 2008-2009 recession ended," Jones said. "Thus, Obama appears to be less vulnerable to a steep decline in his popularity than Bush or Truman was. However, Obama, like any president, will face his own set of challenges, including the expanding federal debt and the need to raise the federal debt limit once again this year."
Jones also warned that Obama will be closely linked to the success or failure of the Affordable Care Act, the bulk of which will be implemented in 2014.
"Given the historical trends, it would not be unexpected for Obama's approval rating to decline further during his next quarter in office," he said. "However, his ability to respond to the challenges he faces will determine whether his approval ratings continue to decline or improve in his final years as president."