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National Politics|By Amy Walter, July 24, 2013

Obama’s approval ratings are on a slide. Polls out this week from Pew, ABC/Washington Post, McClatchy/Marist and NBC/Wall Street Journal all show the president’s approval ratings lower than they’ve been all year, and in some cases lower than they’ve been since 2011. Polling taken this summer in key battleground states like Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio all show the president upside-down in his job approval/disapproval ratings.

So, is it time for Democrats to start panicking?

Nope. In fact, we’ve been here before. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say we’ve never really left.

When it comes to approval ratings, the president has a low ceiling and a high floor. He’s never going to hit the highs that presidents George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush hit, but he’s also not going to hit their lows either.

In fact, the traditional pattern for a two-term president has been to lose 18.1 points between his first weeks in office and the summer of his second term. Obama has lost 20 points between mid-January of 2009 and mid-July of 2013.

According to Gallup data, while Obama’s approval ratings are under 50 percent, they aren’t much different from where they were last quarter. Or even last year. Obama’s current quarter average to date (April 20-July 24) approval rating is at 48 percent. The quarter before that (January 20-April 18), his approval rating was 49.8 percent. His average last year (January 20, 2012 – January 19, 2013), was 48.2 percent. Moreover, Obama’s current 47 percent approval rating is just three points below the historical average for a president at this point in his second term.

Take a look at the ABC/Washington Post timeline on Obama’s job approval/disapproval ratings and you see a very steady line. For the last two years, the president’s job approval ratings in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll have stayed between 44-53 percent and averaged 47.9 percent. It's at 45 percent today.

Obama’s approval ratings in individual states, while not particularly strong, have also remained remarkably consistent. To compare apples to apples, I compared the most recent poll in the state with those taken by that same polling firm in 2012.


Pollster: Quinnipiac University, Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS

 Date June 19-25, 2012 October 23-28, 2012 June 11-16, 2013
 % Approve
 47% 49%
 % Disapprove
 49% 47% 48%


Pollster: Public Policy Polling (D)

 Date July 12-15, 2012
 October 17-19, 2012
 July 5-7, 2013
 % Approve
 47% 46% 46%
 % Disapprove
 49% 50% 50%


Pollster: Marquette University Law School

 Date July 5-8, 2012
 October 25-28, 2012
 July 15-18, 2013
 % Approve
 49% 51%
 % Disapprove
 44% 46% 47%


Pollster: Quinnipiac University, Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS

 Date July 10-16, 2012
 October 23-28, 2012
 July 11-15, 2013
 % Approve
 45% 49% 46%
 % Disapprove
 51% 49% 51%

By no means does this suggest that Obama’s in the clear for the rest of his tenure. Bush was sitting on a 49 percent job approval rating at this point in 2005. By mid-July of 2006 it was down to 37 percent. Bush, of course, was plagued by an increasingly unpopular war, a worsening economy, and a scandal-plagued GOP-controlled Congress. Obama isn’t. But, it’s also clear that he’s not getting the boost in his approval ratings that a president could/should get during a time of economic recovery (as tepid as that recovery might be). And, the potential for a perilous debt ceiling showdown later this fall between Congress and the White House threatens both the economy as well as Obama’s standing in the polls.