Barack Obama is now viewed more positively than Ronald Reagan was in 1988

By Philip Bump November 7 at 2:48 PM Follow @pbump

Pollster.com's Charles Franklin was a little ahead of the curve Sunday morning when he pointed out that President Obama's approval rating right now is among the highest Election-Day approval ratings in recent history.

Franklin tracked recent survey results by party to evaluate Obama's approval, finding that, at 52.1 percent on average, he's viewed more positively now than Ronald Reagan was at the end of his second term, but not as positively as was Bill Clinton at the end of his.

As election approaches, Obama approval trend is at 52.1%.
Ike 10/23/60: 58-31
Reagan 10/24/88: 51-38
Clinton 10/28/00: 57-38 pic.twitter.com/kF5qvZQcRM

— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) November 6, 2016

Why is that ahead of the curve? Because on Monday, fewer than 24 hours before polls open across the United States, Gallup reported that Obama's daily approval rating had hit 56 percent. That's a figure that he'd been around at the end of October, but had otherwise only hit or exceeded on seven days since August 2009.


Those seven days, not coincidentally, occurred shortly after Obama was reelected in 2012. Then, he was the beneficiary of a billion dollars of positive advertising (and a few hundred million of negative). Now, he's the beneficiary, it seems of that attention going to a Democrat who isn't himself. (The steadiness of the economy doesn't hurt either.)

At a rally in Ann Arbor, Nov. 7, President Obama warned Hillary Clinton supporters not to be "bamboozled" by her Republican rival, Donald Trump. (The Washington Post)

On Election Day 2012, Obama was right at 50 percent, according to Gallup. For past presidents, we have to interpolate from poll numbers on either side of Election Day. But Franklin appears to be right: Obama's more popular now than was Reagan in 1988 -- or any modern era president in office at election time in the past four decades except Clinton in 2000 and Reagan in 1984.


We know that there's a correlation between presidential approval ratings and the results of the election for his party. We looked at this in September, noting that numbers closer to Election Day were more accurate than approval numbers in late summer.


But the Ballad of Bill and Al (Gore) is a cautionary tale for Hillary Clinton supporters looking to pop some corks. George H. W. Bush won in 1988 and Reagan won reelection in 1984, but Al Gore did not win the presidency 16 years ago. He won the popular vote, but not the electoral college. And it's not like current polling suggests that the Democrat in this race could wind up in an electoral college tie but with more actual votes.

That sort of thing clearly could only happen if, somehow, there were a Clinton involved.


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