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Bush and Obama Approval Ratings: 100 Days In

- April 25, 2009

For all the discussion of President Obama’s high approval ratings through the first 100 days, I began to wonder just what President G.W. Bush’s approval ratings looked like at about the same time in his first term, back in April 2001.

I compared two Pew Research Center polls, one from April 18-21, 2001 (N=1,202), and the other, just out, from April 15-20, 2009 (N=1,507).

The approval ratings were, to my surprise, very close: 66.9% for Bush; 70.7% for Obama (weighted estimates).

I guess it is easy to forget in light of more recent months just how popular the former president was during his first term, even coming off a controversial election. Maybe this also says something about approval ratings — most Americans are quite gracious during the initial months of nearly all presidencies. There is nothing especially remarkable about high approval ratings at this point, according to “Gallup figures”:http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/04/24/1906350.aspx widely reported.

Having an interest in the geography of almost everything under the sun, I decided to simply crosstabulate approval by location of the survey respondent’s residence, resulting in the following crosstabulations:

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Notably, these tables indicate that the former president’s April 2001 approval rating was far less uniform across urban, suburban and rural locations, with urban dwellers expressing considerable disapproval apparently from the start of his presidency. Nearly 20 points separate urban from rural areas in 2001, compared with just 7 points difference for President Obama.

Moreover, urban voters were far more disapproving of Bush than rural voters are presently of Obama. Notably, suburban respondents are expressing slightly more disapproval for Obama than they did for Bush 34.1% to 30.3%, though this would be within the margin of error for the subsample.

Discussion? Implications?