It’s generally believed that when things are going well in America, the president receives too much credit, and when things are going poorly, he receives too much of the blame. That’s just the nature of the beast in American politics. Recently, President Obama’s approval ratings have sunken to new lows, mostly because of the public’s perception that he isn’t correctly handling the economy, federal budget deficit and situation in Afghanistan. These numbers have taken an added significance in recent weeks because of the approaching midterm elections – the average midterm House seat loss for a president with an approval rating below 50 percent is 36, according to Gallup. You better believe presidents care about how they’re perceived, especially in the Gallup Poll, which has been measuring their popularity for more than 70 years. Here are eight presidents who hated the well-respected poll when the going got tough and their approval ratings sank to their lowest.

  1. Harry Truman – 22 percent approval
    The end of Truman’s presidency was rough. Numerous federal employees including key members of his administration had been exposed for corruption, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist paranoia was spreading and the Korean War was in its third year. He entered the 1952 Democratic primaries with little support from voters in his party and eventually lost the New Hampshire primary to Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. After seeing the writing on wall, Truman dropped out of the race.
  2. Richard Nixon – 24 percent approval
    Nixon’s legacy is forever tied to one infamous word: Watergate. The scandal ruined his presidency as he was implicated in an attempted cover-up of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate building. During months of media scrutiny, Nixon’s approval rating plummeted as impeachment hearings occurred and he lost the support of many of his fellow Republicans. A week before his resignation on August 9, 1974, his approval rating was the lowest of his time in office – just 24 percent. The rating was released three days before the “smoking gun” tape had been made public, indicating that he knew of the cover-up.
  3. George W. Bush – 25 percent approval
    Bush owns the distinction of having the highest approval rating in the history of the Gallup Poll. Ten days after 9/11, 90 percent of the nation approved of his performance in office. By his second term, that kind of support was a distant memory. His rating fell a whopping 65 percent in seven years thanks to the public’s perception of how he was handling the Iraq War, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the Guantanamo Bay controversy, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the economic downturn of 2008. Consequently, he also possesses the highest disapproval rating in the history of the Gallup Poll – 69 percent.
  4. Jimmy Carter – 28 percent approval
    It was a tumultuous four years in office for Carter, who endured economic recession, inflation and the Iran hostage crisis. His lowest approval rating came amid the energy crisis during the summer of 1979, and he left office in 1981 with the second – now third – lowest approval rating for a departing president. Interestingly, despite the fact that many Americans disliked him as a president, many also believed he was a good man who was well-intentioned.
  5. George HW Bush – 29 percent approval
    Like his son, George HW Bush experienced both extremes of the Gallup Poll ratings. His highest approval rating – 89 percent – coincided with the successful completion of the Gulf War in 1991. Much to his dismay, his lowest rating – 29 percent – came during the end of his presidency when he was seeking reelection, which seemed all but assured a year earlier. Americans were frustrated that he reneged on his promise of “no new taxes,” and many were affected by the economic recession and increasing unemployment. Once he lost much of his Republican support base, his popularity waned and his days in office were numbered.
  6. Ronald Reagan – 35 percent approval
    Reagan is regarded as one of the most popular presidents of all-time, but he did endure moments of unpopularity while in office. His lowest approval rating didn’t come during the Iran-Contra scandal, but rather in early 1983, after the unemployment rate had reached then-all-time highs during the 1982 recession. As evidenced by the presidencies of Reagan, George HW Bush, Ford and Carter, the state of the economy has a big effect on the public’s perception of their job performances.
  7. Lyndon Johnson – 35 percent approval
    The end of Johnson’s first full term in office was filled with controversy as Americans became aware of how much the Johnson administration’s depiction of the Vietnam War differed from reality. The media became more critical of the president and the war, and with the continued reports of mounting casualties, the public became increasingly discontented. Additionally, the aggression in which he pushed his Great Society programs incensed his opponents. With enemies on the right and left, it came as no surprise when his approval rating fell to 35 percent in the August before he left the White House.
  8. Gerald Ford – 37 percent approval
    After declaring “our long national nightmare is over,” the American people, who had just witnessed the profound corruption of the Nixon administration, were ready to accept Ford as their president. However, the good feelings didn’t last long. Ford pardoned Nixon a month after he was sworn into office, causing his approval rating to plummet. It reached its lowest point as a mild recession occurred and the unemployment rate reached then-all-time highs during the spring of 1975, eventually leading to the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976.

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