The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Bachmann

"President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times."

Michele Bachmann on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 in a Republican presidential debate in Orlando

Michele Bachmann says Barack Obama 'has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times'

Rep. Michele Bachmann says President Barack Obama's approval ratings are historically low -- and sinking even lower.

During the Sept. 22, 2011, Fox News/Google debate in Orlando, Bachmann said, "President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times. He hasn't gone to the basement yet. It'll be a lot lower than what it is now."

We can't explore her prediction, but we can examine if Obama has the lowest ratings of any modern president. Are they really worse than those of Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon, Jimmy "Malaise" Carter and Lyndon "Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today" Johnson?

Not by a long shot.

We looked at presidential approval data from Gallup, which goes back to Harry Truman. It’s the longest continuous data set for presidential approval ratings. We looked at two different measurements: Each president’s lowest approval rating for their entire term, and each president’s lowest point for their first 968 days, which is how long Obama has served in office.

First, the lows for the presidents' entire terms, listed in descending order from the "highest" low to the "lowest" low:

John F. Kennedy: 56 percent
Dwight Eisenhower: 48 percent
Barack Obama: 40 percent
Bill Clinton: 37 percent
Gerald Ford: 37 percent
Ronald Reagan: 35 percent
Lyndon B. Johnson: 35 percent
George H.W. Bush: 29 percent
Jimmy Carter: 28 percent
George W. Bush: 25 percent
Richard Nixon: 24 percent
Harry Truman: 22 percent

By this measure, nine presidents hit lower lows than Obama has.

What about comparing only the first 968 days for each president? Bachmann’s closer with this one, but still wrong. Here is a list of each president’s low point during that time frame:

John F. Kennedy: 61 percent
Dwight Eisenhower: 57 percent
George H.W. Bush: 53 percent
George W. Bush: 50 percent
Richard Nixon: 48 percent
Lyndon B. Johnson: 46 percent
Barack Obama: 40 percent
Bill Clinton: 37 percent
Gerald Ford: 37 percent
Ronald Reagan: 35 percent
Harry Truman: 33 percent
Jimmy Carter: 28 percent

By this measure, five presidents had lows that were worse than Obama at this point in their presidencies.

So Bachmann is far off either way. We're reaching for the matches: Pants on Fire!
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About this statement:

Published: Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 10:23 a.m.

Subjects: History, Polls and Public Opinion

Sources:

Transcript of Sept. 22, 2011, Republican presidential debate in Orlando, (via CQ Newsmaker Transcripts)

Gallup Presidential Approval Center, accessed Sept. 23, 2011

E-mail interview with Karlyn Bowman, polling analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, Sept. 23, 2011
 
E-mail interview with Charles Franklin, political scientist at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), Sept. 23, 2011

Written by: Louis Jacobson
Researched by: Louis Jacobson
Edited by: Bill Adair

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