Presidential Popularity

July 28, 1978

Report Outline
Public Opinion and the President
Asserting Executive Authority
Course of the Carter Presidency
Special Focus

Public Opinion and the President

Judgment of Carter by Pollsters and Press

Every four years Americans select a president, but the process of evaluating presidential performance goes on almost constantly. From the time he takes office, the person who occupies the White House is scrutinized as no other world figure. His position on issues is studied, his character analyzed and his popularity gauged in monthly polls. To a large extent, the political success or failure of an administration depends on how the chief executive is perceived by the public.

To command attention as the president does is to be subject to the changing tide of public opinion. Now marking his first year and a half in office, President Carter already has had his share of ups and downs. His public approval ratings, as measured by several polls, have sagged badly since taking office. Only Harry S. Truman's slipped farther in the same amount of time. This plunge in popularity has become an object of concern to the White House and of lengthy discussion in the press. Typical of the press commentary on Carter's first 18 months in office was the headline “What Went Wrong?” appearing over a U.S. News & World Report article. “It is clear,” said the author, “that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the president is doing his job.”

Just why they were dissatisfied was a question that elicited responses in the press and other public forums. According to a Gallup Poll spokesman, “there is a decline in the number of people who feel he has a grasp of the job, and a plan to move the U.S. ahead.” In March the polling organization reported in its Gallup Opinion Index that of the people who disapproved of the job Carter was doing, the highest number said he had failed to live up to his campaign promises. On other matters, he was assailed especially for economic troubles at home and problems with both friends and foes abroad.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Executive Powers and the Presidency
Feb. 24, 2006  Presidential Power
Nov. 15, 2002  Presidential Power
Feb. 02, 2001  The Bush Presidency
Jun. 20, 1997  Line-Item Veto
Jun. 14, 1996  First Ladies
Oct. 21, 1988  Dangers in Presidential Transitions
Jun. 10, 1988  The Quandary of Being Vice President
Jan. 06, 1984  Presidential Advisory Commissions
Jul. 28, 1978  Presidential Popularity
Feb. 13, 1976  Evaluating Presidential Performance
Dec. 12, 1975  Presidential Protection
Jul. 11, 1973  Presidential Reorganization
Mar. 07, 1973  Presidential Accountability
Sep. 24, 1971  Presidential Diplomacy
Nov. 11, 1970  Vice Presidency
Oct. 02, 1968  Presidential Power
Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
May 28, 1931  Presidential Commissions
Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
Mar. 21, 1928  Business Conditions in Presidential Years
Jan. 20, 1927  The Monroe Doctrine
Mar. 18, 1925  The President's Power of Appointment
Sep. 10, 1923  The President's Position on Patronage
Journalism and the News
Popular Culture
Separation of Powers