Obama’s approval rating remains low (and increasingly polarized) in lead up to Tuesday’s State of the Union address

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 23, 2014

As President Barack Obama heads into his fifth State of the Union address (sixth, if you count his February 2009 message to Congress) Tuesday, he has his work cut out for him when it comes to rebuilding his popularity with the American public – in particular Republicans.

A major sign of Obama’s struggles is the fact that he is now tied with former President George W. Bush as the most polarizing leader of the free world in the past fifty years. According to Gallup, which has conducted daily presidential approval ratings throughout that period, there was a 76 point gap between the president’s average approval rating among Republicans and his average approval rating among Democrats in 2012, 86 percent to 10 percent.

Interestingly enough, both Obama’s and Bush’s troublesome numbers came during their re-election years, yet both managed to keep their job for another four years.

Obama is also the only president in recent times to have every year of his presidency rank in the top 10 most polarizing years, as noted by the Gallup study.

“Obama is on course to have the most politically polarized approval ratings of any president, with an average 69-point gap during his presidency, a full eight points higher than was the case with Bush,” the Gallup study says. “There have always been party differences in presidential ratings, but these have become more extreme in recent decades, averaging 34 points before Reagan’s presidency and 58 points after. This is due more to presidents receiving comparatively lower approval ratings from the opposition party than it is from extremely high support from their own party, though both are factors.

Obama’s highly polarized ratings, then, may have as much to do with the era in which he is governing as they do with his actions as president. Both Obama and Bush made overtures toward bringing politically divided Americans together, but the evidence suggests neither succeeded. That said, it is not clear that presidents will be very successful in gaining significant support from the opposition party, regardless of what they do in the current political environment,” the report continues.

The president did get some good news from CBS News poll released Thursday, which showed a slight bump in his approval rating among all adults to 46 percent. It also showed, however, that Americans are equally split when it comes to his job performance in office.

Both lawmakers and the American people have many questions for the president ahead of Tuesday’s speech, arguably making it the most anticipated of his presidency, with lingering questions on everything from what the State Department knew prior to the September 11, 2012 bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and the numerous problems surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz even issued a press released Wednesday with five questions that he hopes the president answers during his address next week.

Perhaps Obama will surprise everyone and actually provide answers to these questions. But if conventional wisdom is to be believed, the answers won’t come – and the American people will become even more jaded with the man that promised them (and then failed to deliver on that promise) “hope and change” just six short years ago.

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