Most Polarizing President

I know that Obama has been a fairly polarizing president, but ever? This article in the Washington Post argues so.

President Obama ran — and won — in 2008 on the idea of uniting the country. But each of his first three years in office has marked historic highs in political polarization, with Democrats largely approving of him and Republicans deeply disapproving.

For 2011, Obama’s third year in office, an average of 80 percent of Democrats approved of the job he was doing in Gallup tracking polls, as compared to 12 percent of Republicans who felt the same way. That’s a 68-point partisan gap, the highest for any president’s third year in office — ever. (The previous high was George W. Bush in 2007, when he had a 59 percent difference in job approval ratings.)

In 2010, the partisan gap between how Obama was viewed by Democrats versus Republicans stood at 68 percent; in 2009, it was 65 percent. Both were the highest marks ever for a president’s second and first years in office, respectively.

Here is the chart they included.

Note the chart only goes back to 1953. Before that they either had not divided approval rating by party or polling techniques were less certain. I think that this is the sort of conclusion that one develops when not considering historical perspective. I can think of a few presidents who were at least as polarizing as Obama is now. Abraham Lincoln was such a polarizing figure that half the country seceded when he was elected. Franklin Roosevelt was loved by many and just as deeply loathed by many.

I am just a little skeptical by claims that present day politics is somehow uniquely divisive. It couldn’t be worse than the 1850’s.

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