Obama's approval rating improves on the eve of leaving office

January 19, 2017, 6:30 PM GMT+0

As Barack Obama prepares to hand over the Oval Office, his popularity among Americans is growing

President Barack Obama leaves office tomorrow with positive and rising approval ratings. The tumultuous 2016 campaign to replace him with its battle between two unfavorably-viewed candidates seems to have mellowed the public on the man Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fought to replace. Economist/YouGov Polls over the last several months find the President with positive approval ratings, favorably viewed by a majority, and getting some credit on the issues that dominated his terms.

Four in ten Americans disapprove of how the President is handling his job. That group includes three in four Republicans, and 89% of those who voted for Donald Trump. But one in ten Trump supporters, and nearly one in five Republicans currently approve of the incumbent President.

Obama started out in 2009 with a 60% approval rating. It was never to be that high again, though it rarely dropped much below 40%. His approval rating rose at the end of his first term, then dropped again, but it has remained in positive territory for the last six months. Obama never saw the high rating of George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf War, or that of George W. Bush after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, nor the drop in support both suffered at the ends of their time in office. Like Bill Clinton, President Obama finishes his second term in office with more approval than disapproval.

But he leaves a divided country. Americans are as likely to say the country was better off eight years ago as to think it is better off today. Just about as many say they personally were better off before Obama took office as to say they are better off today.

And although Americans believe Barack Obama ran an Administration generally free from scandal, nearly two-thirds believe he made little or no progress keeping his campaign promise to change the partisan tone in Washington (at the end of 2016, the Economist/YouGov Poll found twice as many saying political discussion had become more negative as saying it had not). Americans divide on his success in improving America’s image in the world, and is barely positive when it comes to assessing his promise to improve the economy.

However, they give President Obama credit for speaking his mind (51% think he mostly says what he really believes, while 37% think he mostly says what he thinks audiences want to hear). And by 54% to 46%, they see him as a strong leader. Overall, a majority of Americans like the outgoing President as a person. In this, the outgoing President fares much better than the man who is replacing him.