Watching the “decay curve”

December 17, 2010

How do President Obama’s slouching poll numbers compare to past presidents? Check out TPM’s recent comparison of presidential approval numbers. As the last administration limped from the White House at the end of 2008, I noted that declining numbers are characteristic not only of that (and now this) administration. Political scientists Paul Brace and Barbara Hinckley (1992) term the “decay curve” in presidential popularity. With a handful of exceptions, presidents have suffered steadily declining support. The TPM analysis looks at the first two years of each administration – but the effect is particularly striking during  second terms, as this graphic by UW political scientist Charles Franklin illustrates. IF (a big if) the economy improves, Obama is certainly an odds-on favorite to win a second term. Again, with notable exceptions (Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton), history suggests recent discontent is only the first taste of the public’s disappointment. Should be fun!

jurvetson (flickr)


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