Who’s as unpopular as Vladimir Putin? Congress!

As you may know, President Obama hit a new low in job approval an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday. It's grim news for the president, who's never been rated lower by the news organizations since he's been president. But one silver lining, anyway: He's far more popular among Americans than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the survey, a remarkable 4 percent of Americans indicated that they had a positive or very positive view of the new overseer of the Crimean peninsula. (The margin of error on the survey is plus-or-minus 3.1 percent, if you're curious or would like to see just how bad it could get.) In contrast, 68 percent of the country has a negative or very negative view of him -- up by five percentage points from March.


Mr. Popular. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Here's the thing, though. If you add 68 and 4, you get 72 -- meaning that 28 percent of the country is either ambivalent about or has no opinion of Putin. (Ambivalent about Putin!)

So if you apply a raw metric of "less popular," there's basically nothing that we've been able to track down that's got an approval of four percentage points or less. There are polls that use iffy methodologies and ask questions about funny, random things that probably identified some less-popular things, and there are lists and lists of things that have approval ratings lower than our normal favorite punching bag, Congress. But nothing touches Putin.

By another metric, though, there is something less popular than Putin: Our normal favorite punching bag, Congress. In the NBC/WSJ poll, 14 percent of the country is ambivalent about Putin and 14 percent has no opinion. (Sigh.) So of those who do have an opinion, Putin sees a net approval of -64. If you take the numbers for Congress in this same NBC/WSJ poll, guess what. Subtracting those who disapprove of Congress from those who approve (there is no "ambivalent" option), you get -- wait for it -- negative-65.

That's job approval, not opinion, of course. And there is a difference between the two. When asked how they feel about Obama, Americans have a net -7 opinion of the president. About his job performance, though, they're at net -14.

Pulling out a few of the data points from that poll:

Interestingly, while Obama's job approval is lower than NBC/WSJ has seen in the past, his net approval isn't as low as a number of past presidents. Using data from the University of Connecticut's Roper Center, we found the lowest net approval of every president since FDR. This moment for Obama isn't nearly as bad as some of his predecessors -- or even his own, from Gallup in 2011.

On that, of course, Putin is literally off the chart -- as is Congress. Here's Congress's net approval in Post polling since 1974. Worse than Obama, worse than Bush, worse than Nixon. And worse, frequently, than Putin.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
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