I took a few minutes to assemble some data on presidential approval ratings at the 10-month mark, the current President having crossed that threshold about two weeks ago.

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I was immediately struck by the similarities between Obama and Reagan at the equivalent point in their first terms:*


The similarity is remarkable. Where did Reagan go from here? Well, his low ratings persisted throughout 1982 and accordingly the GOP results in the midterm Congressional elections were mediocre.

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The majority Democrats added 27 additional seats to their House delegation while in the Senate, the Democrats remained in the minority but picked up one additional seat, leaving them at 46 (they would make additional gains in 1984 before taking the Senate back in 1986).
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How then did Reagan end up virtually canonized by 1988 after winning a coronation-style re-election in 1984? Well, the simple answer is that his approval ratings took a dramatic swing upward in 1983. Hmm…


Coincidental correlation? Maybe. But the link between economic conditions and presidential approval is well-established in political science literature.*** While I recognize – and in fact base my entire Presidency course around – the fact that the President does not have a magic button on his desk labeled FIX ECONOMY, these data should suggest that achieving some tangible improvement in general economic conditions should be Obama's first and only goal at the moment. For some strange reason voters don't seem to worry about the deficit as much when they have jobs.

* Approval ratings are now available daily, whereas in 1981 data were collected monthly. I combined the data by noting the date of each Reagan approval rating and choosing the corresponding Obama rating from that date.

** Unemployment data is the monthly rate calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

***see Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson 2000 or Edwards, Mitchell and Welch 1995 to name just two.
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10 thoughts on “SAINT RONNIE vs. SECRET MUSLIN”

  • Could you please take some additional time and show us a graph that tracks RR's onset of senility vs. his popularity? From what I understand, it was readily apparent early in his second term. What this country loves is a president that loses all grasp of reality. That was proven again with Bush 1 & 2. Now, if President Obama can just get a slight head injury or survive an alien abduction…

  • One of the worst policies of the Reagan Administration can be studied in the excellent article Two Santa Clauses or How the GOP Has Conned America for 30 Years

    In an nutshell, David Stockman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget during Reagan's first term, conceived the idea of "Starve The Beast" – i.e. create large enough deficits that social programs could be dismantled under the claim 'we can't afford them'.

    Reagan ran on paying off the national debt, and instead quadrupled it. Of course, we know he's a pike compared to W and the GOP who now whine about debt and deficits despite being at the helm while they created one unfunded trillion dollar program and tax cuts for the wealthy. Now they scream exactly what was initially conceived during the Reagan Administration under "Starve The Beast"

    Heard that one lately from the GOP? Thought you might have …

  • Oops

    Of course, we know he's a piker compared to W and the GOP who now whine about debt and deficits despite being at the helm while they created one unfunded trillion dollar program and tax cuts for the wealthy after another.

    Lest we forget the Bush WH threatened to fire the actuary who was going to testify to the true cost of Medicare Part D.

    $50 billion dollar Iraq War – "6 months tops". Ya, sure. Keep voting against your own interests rednecks of America.

  • Whenever a shittypants (read fucking infantile spoiled, selfish, pampered, privileged conservative) complains about the deficit and the recession, I remind them about the Reagan recession. I might as well have hit a mule with a stun-hammer.

    Interesting graph, and the general principle I agree with, but the correlation is not entirely linear. What local parameters or mitigating circumstances were going on to explain the jump in approval even though unemployment was above 10% for almost TWO FUCKING YEARS??!!!

    Chalk it up at least in part to the admirably American disconnect that allows reality to blossom into delusional fantasy, but there was other things going on which I have neither the time nor resources to remember.

  • Danny –

    Reagan got shot on March 30, '81, a mere 69 days into his presidency. Not much correlation there.

    The invasion of Grenada happened on Oct. 25, 1983. Coincidentally, per Ed's graph, Reagan got an immediate bump of about 7 points.

    — a lesson not missed by the infamous W. We 'Merkuns do love us some war. At least at the beginning. And Grenada was over as soon as it began.

    Only a cynic would think that distracting from the loss of 241 marines in the Beirut bombing only two days earlier would have anything to do with it. But, gee, dying in actual battle, or better yet, killing stinking Commies (instead being hoist on a truck petard while lolling in your barracks) is so much more glorious.

    JzB the cynical, wiki-loving trombonist

  • I couldn't find an e-mail link so … Here's my question Why is Joe Lieberman
    still walking the halls of the Senate w/o internal bleeding?? or at least stripped of his commitee assignments

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