President Obama has maintained a good part of his personal popularity throughout his first term, yet faces widespread skepticism as he heads into his second. Looking back at the most recent two-term presidents, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that the country’s mood and opinion of the commander-in-chief today are remarkably similar to polling conducted on the eve of George W. Bush’s second inaugural in 2005. Back then, 40% said the country was headed in the right direction while 47% said it was on the wrong track. President Obama faces negative numbers as well - just 35% say America is headed in the right direction while 57% picked “wrong track”. Obama’s approval number is 52%, Bush’s was 50% and their disapproval numbers are identical (44%).
Yet those numbers pale in comparison to President Clinton’s strong position in 1997, just before he was sworn in for a second time: a plurality of Americans said things were going well and his approval rating was riding high at 60%. On the other hand, Congress has seen a dramatically drop-off in the public’s eyes. In January of 2005, Congress actually had a net positive rating, 41% to 40%. Today, the disapproval rating for Congress is at 81% - five times more than the number of Americans who approve.