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Presidential Popularity Ratings an Analysis

The death of President Roosevelt during World War II and the Presidency of Harry Truman marked a new era in politics, the presidential approval rating. It is understandable that the country was nervous about the policies of a new President, especially in the middle of a war.  The approval rating provides a benchmark confidence level in the president and has become a staple in our political landscape today.  It is used to promote policy, to discredit presidents and as fodder for the media.  Using just one set of polls, or a one-time only poll is just a snap shot of how the American people truly feel.


ABC’s  FiveThirtyEight website provides us with a unique view of presidential approval ratings.  The website allows viewers to compare President Trump to his predecessors in real time.  This interactive site, allows a comparison of the presidents based on each day of their presidency, shifting the data by   approval, disapproval and net approval ratings.  The sliding scale provides a comparison for all presidents at the same time.   It is based on a variety of polls taken throughout the years and has a detailed section on “How This Works” to describe the methodology.


A quick review of the website provides classroom talking points that can last throughout a semester or even the starting point for discussions and/or group projects.  A few easy topics include:


  1. Is there true value in measuring a president after one hundred days?
  2. Can we compare presidents day by day? Do circumstances matter?
  3. What do these trends tell us?
  4. Have we always been this polarized? The answer surprised me.

Check out the website and let us know how you could use it in class.