President Obama has an uphill climb in his second term, as he tries to overcome pessimism about the economy and his own ability to fix it. In fact, his situation strongly mirrors that of the last two-term president, George W. Bush.
President Obama has maintained a good part of his personal popularity throughout his first term, yet faces widespread skepticism as he heads into his second. Looking back at the most recent two-term presidents, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that the country’s mood and opinion of the commander-in-chief today are remarkably similar to polling conducted on the eve of George W. Bush’s second inaugural in 2005. Back then, 40% said the country was headed in the right direction while 47% said it was on the wrong track. President Obama faces negative numbers as well – just 35% say America is headed in the right direction while 57% picked “wrong track”. Obama’s approval number is 52%, Bush’s was 50% and their disapproval numbers are identical (44%).
Yet those numbers pale in comparison to President Clinton’s strong position in 1997, just before he was sworn in for a second time: a plurality of Americans said things were going well and his approval rating was riding high at 60%. On the other hand, Congress has seen a dramatically drop-off in the public’s eyes. In January of 2005, Congress actually had a net positive rating, 41% to 40%. Today, the disapproval rating for Congress is at 81% – five times more than the number of Americans who approve.