Re-election Hasn't Changed Public Opinion on Obama

President Obama's post-election approval numbers are historically low.

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President Obama has gotten only a small boost in public approval from his re-election victory, suggesting that the country remains deeply polarized and he will have continuing trouble winning acceptance of his agenda.

Most recent presidents — whether they won or lost — got a larger increase in their approval ratings immediately after Election Day than Obama has, according to a Gallup poll.

Net job approval — defined by Gallup as the percentage of people who approve of a president's job performance reduced by the percentage who disapproved — increased by an average of 6 percentage points for presidents since 1952. Obama, however, saw his net job approval go up by just 2 percentage points.

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons on President Obama]

Fifty-two percent of Americans approved of Obama's job performance immediately before and after the election, but the share of those who disapproved declined from 44 percent to 42 percent — accounting for the 2 percent net differential.

All of Obama's immediate predecessors going back to Ronald Reagan got a bigger bump. George W. Bush's net approval actually increased by 5 percentage points immediately after his party lost the presidency to Obama in 2008, and went up 8 percent in 2004 when Bush won re-election.

Bill Clinton's rating went up by 11 points after his party lost in 2000 and by 5 points in 1996 when he won a second term. George H.W. Bush's jumped 19 percentage points in 1992 despite his loss. Reagan's rose by 9 percentage points in 1988 and 5 percentage points in 1984. The Gallup results were summarized by The New York Times.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Facebook and Twitter.