Is Obama Another Reagan?

Jan 18, 2011 10:51am

ABC's Amy Walter reports:

While no time in history can be genuinely replicated (every war, recession, civil rights movement  etc. has its own unique circumstances), those who cover politics are always eager to compare the current President with his predecessors. 

For President Obama, the comparisons with Ronald Reagan are often easy to make.  Both saw huge spikes in unemployment and lingering economic uncertainty during the first two years of their tenures. Both suffered significant Congressional losses in their first mid-term elections.  And, Democrats are confident that if the economic picture improves over the next two years, as it did for Reagan in late 1983 and 1984, Obama will have an easy path to re-election.

But, when you compare Obama’s most recent job approval ratings with where Reagan’s were at this same point in his presidency,  you would think that they had absolutely nothing in common. According to the most recent polling taken by ABC News/ Washington Post, President Obama’s job approval rating is 54 percent. At this point in 1983, according to Gallup poll data, Reagan’s approval rating was a dismal 37 percent.

The unemployment rate in January of 1983 was a full point higher than it is today (10.4% compared to 9.4%). But, that alone doesn’t make up for the difference in the approval ratings of these two recession-era presidents.

The big difference: Obama is doing much better with Democrats than Reagan did with Republicans.  According to the most recent Gallup data, President Obama’s approval rating among Democrats is 83 percent. At this point in 1983 (January 14-17), just 68 percent of Republicans approved of the job Reagan was doing. Among independent voters, the gap is not nearly as pronounced.  Forty-six percent of independent voters approve of the job Obama is doing, while 42 percent approved of Reagan.

But, over the next few months, Reagan’s support from Republicans started to steadily climb. By mid-February, 79 percent of Republicans approved of the job Reagan was doing. And, by October of 1984, Reagan’s approval rating among Republicans was up to 84 percent – among independents it was at 62 percent. Unemployment in October of 1984 had also fallen three full points to 7.4 percent.

However, it’s not clear that President Obama will enjoy such robust job growth. In Congressional testimony earlier this month, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, said it may take four or five years for the labor market to “normalize fully.”

For more on the Obama / Reagan comparison click HERE.

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