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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 12:20 PM ET, 08/03/2011

Obama set to turn 50, with sub-50 approval ratings

President Obama turns 50 tomorrow, but a less enviable milestone awaits: absent a dramatic one-night upturn, Aug. 4 will mark 60 days with job approval ratings under 50 percent in Gallup tracking polls. And an again sputtering economy threatens to keep it there for awhile.

The two-month stretch sub-50 is not Obama’s longest in Gallup data -- he was below 50 from June through December 2010 -- but the extended period under that mark puts clear pressure on Obama’s re-election bid.

Now, Obama’s current 43 percent percent approval rating nearly matches former president Ronald Reagan’s Gallup tally in early August 1983 (44 percent), and Reagan of course went on to a landslide victory the following year.

In fact, since the start of his presidency, Obama’s approval ratings have tracked very closely with Reagan’s through his first two-plus years. Only once in Washington Post-ABC News polls at comparable times in their tenures do approval ratings for the two presidents differ by more than six percentage points.

But that close connection may be in jeopardy: Reagan’s approval ratings rose steadily from the summer of 1983 through his big win the following year, a run-up fueled in part by a rapidly expanding economy.

From July 1983 to October 1984, the U.S. economy gained a whopping 5.6 million jobs, driving down the unemployment rate from 9.4 to 7.4 percent. In the now-bigger economy, it would take 7.8 million new jobs before Election Day 2012 to equal the earlier turnaround. That’s an average of about 490, 000 jobs a month (including July), more than double the monthly average so far this year. Over the last two months, an average of 22,000 jobs were added. The new jobs report is scheduled to be released Friday.

Read coverage of Obama’s 50th birthday

Warm embrace from diehard fans at Obama’s Chicago party

Gallery: The best of presidential birthdays

Gallery: Obama’s life

By and  |  12:20 PM ET, 08/03/2011

Categories:  Presidential Approval, 2012 polls

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