How Obama’s fifth year as president mirrored George W. Bush’s, in two charts

January 21, 2014

President Obama's fifth year in office was officially history as of Jan. 19. Arguably the roughest period of his presidency, year five was a forgettable one for Obama, whose image looked remarkably similar to that of his predecessor: George W. Bush.


Texas Gov. George W. Bush gives a thumbs-up to the crowd during inaugural ceremonies Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1999, in Austin, Texas. Then-Governor Bush was sworn-in for his second term before being elected president a year later.

Obama's average approval rating as measured by Gallup was 45.8 percent during the past year. Bush's was 45.7 percent during the corresponding period of his presidency. Richard Nixon's numbers were worse, but Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton won much higher marks.

Chart courtesy of Gallup
Chart courtesy of Gallup

The problematic rollout of Obamacare, revelations about sweeping government surveillance, and a stalled domestic agenda marked by a failure to pass news laws on guns or immigration together made 2013 a very tough year for Obama.

For Bush, it was a different set of events, mot notably a widely panned response to Hurricane Katrina and the acknowledgement that faulty intelligence led to the invasion of Iraq.

But where the two ended up in the eyes of the public toward the end of year five was the same. Obama's 20th quarter job approval rating was 41.2 percent. Bush's was exactly the same.

Chart courtesy of Gallup
Chart courtesy of Gallup

Bush never bounced back, while the rest of Obama's story has yet to be written, of course.

Different as they are in so many ways -- Obama campaigned and won as the anti-Bush in 2008 -- the two presidents will go down in history as remarkably similar in at least one regard.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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