Oct. 12, 2012— -- Barack Obama is a polarizing president.
Obama ran on a platform of bridging partisan divides in Washington. But for a litany of reasons, that hasn't happened during his first term. According to a new Gallup poll, nine out of ten Democrats approve of Obama's job performance, compared with less than one in 10 Republicans.
While there was an 80 percent gap in October 2004 on George W. Bush's approval ratings, it is now at 82 percent, the highest it's been for any recent incumbent president during the final month before Americans vote on his re-election.
Gallup notes that former presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had much smaller gaps, the largest being 68 percent.
Obama has also become more polarizing over time. The gap between approval ratings from Democrats and Republicans was 68 percent during his second and third years in office, and 65 percent during his first year in office. As Gallup notes, that is not uncommon. Election years are full of negative campaign ads and attempts by both parties to make the opponent look less capable of leading the country. But Gallup points out that ratings of recent presidents are far more divided than ratings of less recent presidents.
Of the last 10 presidents, President Lyndon Johnson's approval gap during the 1964 election year was the lowest at 23 percent, with a 61 percent average approval rating from Republicans and an 84 percent average approval rating from Democrats. Interestingly, Carter came in second with a gap of 29 percent, but his average approval rating among Democrats was only 53 percent, while it dropped to 24 percent among Republicans.
Gallup notes that Obama and his predecessor, Bush 43, both had nearly universal approval from their own parties and disapproval from supporters of the opposition parties. And both either had or are likely to have very close reelection battles.
"That underscores the importance of turnout by the party groups in the Nov. 6 election," according to Gallup, "given that views of the president are largely fixed. Another key in determining Obama's electoral fate may be which side of the 50% approval mark independent voters wind up on; they have been very near 50% approval in recent weeks."
This poll, like most recent surveys, indicates that the race for the Oval Office is a close one, with Romney and Obama both battling for swing state votes and urging their own supporters to turn up at the polls.