The cable news networks are having a field day with President Barack Obama's sagging approval ratings--it seems like every politics story you hear begins with the ominous caveat: As the public disapproval of Obama grows...
It's all nonsense, cooked up to milk a fake drama, as the superb Presidential Approval Tracker by USA Today illustrates.
At first glance, what the data tells you is that almost all modern presidents have seen their approval ratings sag tremendously in their first two years of office. Bouncebacks--when they come, as with Reagan, Clinton, Carter, and even Nixon--tend to happen 2-3 years after the election, when a president has a chance to tout the changes he's ushered in.
Meanwhile, the excellent interactive portions of the graph are revealing, allowing you to limit the time frame you're looking at, and, what's more, compare presidents against each other.
And what you see with Obama is that his approval trends most closely resemble Reagan's. Granted, the starting points are a bit different, but just a few months into each president's first term, the lines begin looking quite similar:
Meanwhile, you'll note that the only president to have seen his approval ratings tick quickly upward from the start was actually George Bush, Sr.
Didn't help him so much with getting re-elected, did it?