By Garance Franke-Ruta
President Obama's job approval rating has dropped below 50 percent for the first time since he assumed office, according to Gallup's tracking poll.
The poll averages results over three days. When Obama took office, the poll measured his approval rating at 68 percent for the Jan. 21-23, 2009, period. His approval rating was as high as 54 percent just two weeks ago, but the overall trend line has been down since the summer.
"Although the current decline below 50 percent has symbolic significance, most of the recent decline in support for Obama occurred in July and August," explains pollster Jeffrey L. Jones. "He began July at 60 percent approval. The ongoing, contentious debate over national health-care reform has likely served as a drag on his public support, as have continuing economic problems. Americans are also concerned about the Obama administration's reliance on government spending to solve the nation's problems and the growing federal budget deficit.
"Since September, Obama's approval rating had been holding in the low 50s and, although it has reached 50 percent numerous times, it had never dropped below 50 percent until now."
Obama's drop in support is similar to that experienced by Ronald Reagan, according to the pollsters. Reagan's drop to below 50 percent took place Nov. 13-16, 1981, they report, while Gerald Ford dropped below 50 percent in his third month in office, and Bill Clinton in his fourth month.
"Of the post-World War II presidents, Obama now is the fourth fastest to drop below the majority approval level," Jones writes
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