Obama Poll Watch -- December, 2016

01/04/2017 11:13 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2017
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama speak to U.S. Marines and personnel on Christmas day at Marine Corp
Hugh Gentry / Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama speak to U.S. Marines and personnel on Christmas day at Marine Corps Base Hawaii during his Christmas holiday vacation in Kailua, Hawaii, December 25, 2016.

Obama’s Very Good Year

Obama’s third, or “lame-duck” honeymoon continued strong in December, putting Obama at the highest point in public opinion polls that he’s seen during his entire second term in office. In other words, he’s stronger now than he was when sworn in for the second time, four years ago. Obama set four second-term records this month, hitting a job approval high in both daily and monthly average poll ratings, while also charting new daily and monthly lows in job disapproval. Obama had a great December, which was the capstone on the best year he’s ever had during his entire presidency. Let’s take a look at the penultimate chart of Obama’s presidency:

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

December, 2016

I say penultimate because I will be writing one final poll-watching column for Obama, right after he leaves office later this month. It’s been a long and eventful eight years of writing these columns, so I just wanted to begin by thanking everyone who has been reading along for lo these many moons. But enough sentimentality, let’s get to the numbers.

Obama’s monthly average job approval continued its upward climb last month, gaining almost a full percent over November, to end up at 53.8 percent. You can even picture Obama saying a quick “thank you” to the fat man in the red suit, at month’s end, in fact, since this put him above where he had begun his second term (52.7 percent). Even though gaining 0.9 percent in a month is impressive, Obama’s job disapproval numbers fell at an even more impressive 2.0 points ― twice the rate of his rise in approval. Obama ended the month at only 42.0 percent disapproval, which (again) is lower than when he took office four years ago (42.6 percent).

As with last month, there’s not a lot of need here for political analysis. Exiting two-term presidents almost always get a third honeymoon period where the public ― exhausted by the seemingly-endless election season ― gives the guy the benefit of the doubt on his way out the door. People are already missing Obama, before he’s even left office ― that’s all that really needs be said.

Overall Trends

We can finally see the entire span of Obama’s 2016 polling, and pretty much any way you measure it, it has been the best year in office he’s yet seen.

In monthly job approval, Obama had ten months of gains and only two months of losses during 2016. The average gain for these ten months was more than one percent (1.1), and totaled 11.3 percent overall. In only two months (July and September) did Obama see his job approval fall, for a total decline of 1.2 percent. For the year, Obama improved his job approval by a stunning net of 10.1 percent (43.7 up to 53.8 percent). Obama’s job approval is now higher than it has been since July of 2009, at the end of his first honeymoon period.

Obama’s improvement in job disapproval was not quite as good, but he still had his best year ever here, too. Obama saw his job disapproval rating fall in nine months of 2016, and only rise in three (May, July, and September). His improvement averaged 1.3 percent per month during these nine months, for a total decline of 11.7 points. His job disapproval rating rose 2.1 percent during the other three months, for a total net of 9.6 percent improvement for the year (from 51.6 percent down to 42.0 percent).

The measurement of how far above water Obama’s numbers are (difference between approval and disapproval) has reached double digits once again, and now stands at 11.8 percent. That is a healthier rating than Obama has seen since the first eight months of his first term.

As I said, pretty much any way you measure it, Obama’s having his best year in office of his entire presidency. Obama set new second-term records in his daily approval averages as well, hitting a daily high job approval rating of 54.4 percent from December 13th through the 17th, and on the 17th he also hit his second-term daily low in job disapproval (40.9 percent) as well.

Let’s take a look at the chart for his entire second term, which shows in greater detail the amazing year Obama just closed out.

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

As you move to the right side of that graph, the trendline is pretty clear and convincing. In the end, it didn’t do Hillary Clinton any good, but Obama’s legacy seems certain to be a positive one with the public as he leaves office.

In 2013, Obama’s second honeymoon collapsed. In 2014, Obama improved a bit, but then fell back at the end of the year. In 2015, Obama managed to gain a few percentage points, but then hit a ceiling of 46 percent. But in 2016, Obama rocketed upwards on a very steep trajectory.

Counting only presidents who served a full two terms (back to Kennedy), Obama will leave office somewhere between (at the high end) Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan (who both cracked 60 percent approval at the end of their second terms) and George W. Bush (who fell well below 30 percent approval at the end ― rating lows not seen since Richard Nixon’s time).

Obama might have hit his second-term high in December, though. There are only 20 days in January to measure, and it looks like his steep rise might have crested already. If he falls back at all, it’ll only be a tiny correction, but Obama seems to have topped out in mid-December and has fallen back slightly since then. So our final column after the inauguration will likely reflect this.

One final program note to end with: there will be no “Trump Poll Watch” series of columns ― at least not on a monthly basis. I never put in this effort while George W. Bush was in office, and I don’t intend to do so for Trump. I will continue writing about presidential approval polling now and again, especially since I fully expect Donald Trump to have the shortest (and shallowest) first-term “honeymoon” ever recorded. Lest we forget, Barack Obama entered office eight years ago with an astounding 63.1 percent approval rating and an equally-astounding 19.6 disapproval rating ― a difference of a whopping 43.5 percent. This slowly bled away over the course of his first year (as all honeymoon periods inevitably do), but not once in his first year in office did Obama fail to remain above water. His disapproval didn’t top his approval until the middle of 2010, in fact. Trump, on the other hand, will likely either start his term very near to being underwater or will hit this crossover point a lot sooner. I’ll write about this as it happens, but not on a monthly basis. Which leaves us with only one more Obama Poll Watch column to write, immediately after the inauguration.

[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Sources And Methodology

ObamaPollWatch.com is an admittedly amateur effort, but we do try to stay professional when it comes to revealing our sources and methodology. All our source data comes from RealClearPolitics.com; specifically from their daily presidential approval ratings “poll of polls” graphic page. We take their daily numbers, log them, and then average each month’s data into a single number ― which is then shown on our monthly charts here (a “poll of polls of polls,” if you will...). You can read a much-more detailed explanation of our source data and methodology on our “About Obama Poll Watch” page, if you’re interested.

Questions or comments? Use the Email Chris page to drop me a private note.

 

Obama’s Second Term Statistical Records

Monthly
Highest Monthly Approval ― 12/16 ― 53.8%
Lowest Monthly Approval ― 11/13 ― 41.4%

Highest Monthly Disapproval ― 12/13 ― 54.0%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval ― 12/16 ― 42.0%

Daily
Highest Daily Approval ― 12/(13-17)/16 ― 54.4%
Lowest Daily Approval ― 12/2/13 ― 39.8%

Highest Daily Disapproval ― 12/2/13 ― 55.9%
Lowest Daily Disapproval ― 12/17/16 ― 40.9%

 

Obama’s Second Term Raw Monthly Data

[All-time high in bold, all-time low underlined.]

Month ― (Approval / Disapproval / Undecided)
12/1653.8 / 42.0 / 4.2
11/16 ― 52.9 / 44.0 / 3.1
10/16 ― 51.7 / 45.4 / 2.9
09/16 ― 50.5 / 46.4 / 3.1
08/16 ― 51.3 / 44.9 / 3.8
07/16 ― 49.6 / 46.7 / 3.7
06/16 ― 50.0 / 46.2 / 3.8
05/16 ― 48.8 / 47.3 / 3.9
04/16 ― 48.6 / 47.2 / 4.2
03/16 ― 48.4 / 47.4 / 4.2
02/16 ― 46.3 / 49.6 / 4.1
01/16 ― 45.5 / 50.2 / 4.3
12/15 ― 43.7 / 51.6 / 4.7
11/15 ― 44.4 / 51.3 / 4.3
10/15 ― 45.3 / 50.0 / 4.7
09/15 ― 45.6 / 50.3 / 4.1
08/15 ― 44.7 / 50.4 / 4.9
07/15 ― 45.7 / 50.0 / 4.3
06/15 ― 44.6 / 50.7 / 4.7
05/15 ― 45.4 / 50.0 / 4.6
04/15 ― 45.2 / 49.9 / 4.9
03/15 ― 44.9 / 50.8 / 4.3
02/15 ― 45.4 / 50.1 / 4.5
01/15 ― 44.8 / 50.5 / 4.7
12/14 ― 42.4 / 52.8 / 4.8
11/14 ― 42.0 / 53.4 / 4.6
10/14 ― 42.1 / 53.4 / 4.5
09/14 ― 41.5 / 53.5 / 5.0
08/14 ― 41.6 / 53.0 / 5.4
07/14 ― 41.8 / 53.6 / 4.6
06/14 ― 42.4 / 53.4 / 4.2
05/14 ― 44.0 / 51.7 / 4.3
04/14 ― 43.4 / 52.1 / 4.5
03/14 ― 42.9 / 52.8 / 4.3
02/14 ― 43.3 / 52.3 / 4.4
01/14 ― 42.7 / 52.7 / 4.6
12/13 ― 41.9 / 54.0 / 4.1
11/1341.4 / 53.9 / 4.7
10/13 ― 44.2 / 50.8 / 5.0
09/13 ― 43.9 / 50.8 / 5.3
08/13 ― 44.4 / 50.2 / 5.4
07/13 ― 45.3 / 49.2 / 5.5
06/13 ― 46.5 / 48.5 / 5.0
05/13 ― 48.3 / 46.9 / 4.8
04/13 ― 48.6 / 46.8 / 4.6
03/13 ― 48.5 / 46.3 / 5.2
02/13 ― 51.1 / 43.1 / 5.9
01/13 ― 52.7 / 42.6 / 4.7

 

Second Term Column Archives

 

First Term Data

To save space, the only data and statistics listed above are from Obama’s second term. If you’d like to see the data and stats from Obama’s first term, including a list of links to the full archives of the Obama Poll Watch column for the first term, we’ve set up an Obama Poll Watch First Term Data page, for those still interested.

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Full archives of OPW columns: ObamaPollWatch.com

 

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