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Do we need to keep asking?

Politics in Iowa Web (1)

By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science.

The Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center is an invaluable resource for students and teachers of politics. The site provides approval and disapproval data on presidents from Harry S. Truman through Donald J. Trump, including the ability to break down data by various demographic groups such as party affiliation.

While it is still too early in President Biden’s term to generate a rolling average, do we really need to ask?

Consider the three previous presidents:

During the final two years of Republican George W. Bush’s tenure in office, approval among Democratic voters did not exceed 10 percent, while approval among Republicans was regularly in the 60 to 70 percent range. That gap expanded during the Obama Administration, with approval among Democrats generally in the 80-90 percent range, while Republican approval was between 7 and 17 percent. Not surprisingly, the same pattern emerged during the Trump Administration, albeit more extreme than before, with Democratic approval ranging from 3 to 14 percent and Republican approval in the high 80s to low 90s.

In short, the partisan gap in presidential approval has nearly maxed out (as Ezra Klein notes in his book), with very little movement (other than expanding) since the second term of George W. Bush. Perhaps the gap will narrow under the Biden Administration, but given the strength of party identification and the current hyperpartisan atmosphere, that seems unlikely.

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