Gallup: Obama as Polarizing as George W. Bush

Only 10 percent of Republicans approve of Obama’s job performance.

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Former President George W. Bush/President Barack Obama

President Obama hasn't made much headway in bringing Americans together. One of his biggest political problems is that only 10 percent of Republicans on average approve of the job he is doing, compared with 86 percent of his fellow Democrats, according to the Gallup Poll.

Overall, Obama has polarized the country just as deeply as President George W. Bush did at the end of Bush's first term. Bush had a 15 percent approval rating among Democrats but 91 percent approval among fellow Republicans in 2004.

This means that the split between Obama's average approval ratings among Democrats and Republicans is 76 percentage points, the same as Bush's split.

"Both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, have made overtures toward bringing Americans together," says Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

"The reality is that under both of their presidencies, Americans have been more politically divided than ever before. It is not clear how much of that is due to their governing styles and how much is just a reflection on how Americans approach politics and the presidency these days."

FE_DA_130104bush-obama.jpg
Former President George W. Bush/President Barack Obama

In contrast, Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan each had an approval gap of about 60 points, according to Gallup. President Richard Nixon's approval gap was 44 points for most of his presidency.

Another survey was also a bit deflating for Obama. Even though 20.6 million Americans watched his inauguration ceremony and related events on television Monday, that number was down markedly from his first inauguration in 2009 when 37.8 million watched. That's a drop of 17.2 million viewers or 46 percent, according to the Nielsen rating company.

Reagan drew 41.8 million viewers in 1981. His was the most-watched inauguration in the past 45 years.

Nielsen didn't survey viewers who watched Obama's second inauguration online.

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