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The presidential approval rating in the United States is influenced by many factors, including the prevailing economic status, the rally effect, especially in times of foreign policy issues, scandals, whether economic or behavioral and the “honeymoon effect’ among others. This paper will discuss three different U.S. presidents based on the categories highlighted above.
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)-The Rally Effect
President George Bush enjoyed an approval rating of over 80% in 1991. This is attributed to his decision to send American troops to counter attacks on Kuwait by Iraq military forces. The Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, had authorized his troops to invade Kuwait and then extend into Saudi Arabia. The decision by Saddam had received international condemnation, with the U.N. Security Council instilling economic sanctions on Iraq. In his endeavor to free Kuwait from the attacks, Bush rallied the American populace, the Congress, and the United Nations. This saw him send 425,000 American troops into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Here, the forces were joined by more than 100,000 other troops from allies. Within a few weeks of fatal air and missile bombardments, the U.S.-led troops launched a land battle christened “Desert Storm,” which within a span of one hundred hours had routed the million-man force from Iraq. The military and diplomatic triumph made Bush a hero and saw him achieve unprecedented levels of popularity not only from the American People but the world as a whole attributable to the rally effect (Murdico, p.7).
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)-The Economy
The 1979 energy crisis greatly affected the U.S. economy. The inflation and interest rates rose, resulting in slowed economic growth and an increase in unemployment. Also, this led to a sharp fall in consumer confidence. During this time, efforts by the government to reverse the trend seemed to bear no fruits, and many Americans became disillusioned. As was expected, the people expressed their anger at the government’s inability to contain the situation.
Jimmy Carter’s approval rating was at 28%, the lowest ever recorded for any sitting U.S. president in modern times. The problem was exacerbated further by his inability to convince Congress to impose price controls on energy and other integral commodities such as medicine. His effort to ask cabinet secretaries to resign was perceived as a tactic to shift the blame on his inability to take control of the government, resulting in his eventual re-election failure in 1980 (Gallup & Newport, p. 120).
William Clinton (1993- 2000)-Scandal
The 1998 Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal did not directly affect the country, but by virtue of the officeholder, it attracted immense attraction. The scandal opened up similar accusations against the president, notably the sexual harassment case filed by Paula Jones, who was previously an employee of Arkansas State. When the president and Lewinsky denied the relationship, counter-evidence proved otherwise, resulting in the impeachment of the president. Despite the damaging impact of the scandal on the president, his performance as an administrator saw him enjoy immense support across the country, with his overall approval rating remaining above 60% (Engler, p.169).
“Honey Moon Effect”- William Clinton
The new presidents in the U.S. are known to enjoy high popularity ratings in approximately 100 days of assuming office. During this time, the presidents have a good rapport with Congress, and with the right strategy and skills, a president can sway Congress to his or her side. This may not always be the case as Bill Clinton experienced upon assuming office since the Congress had many restrictive republicans opposed to his ideas forcing him to circumvent their influence by using the clause on executive orders (Han, p. 173).
The presidential job approval seems to be independent of many factors. Whether economic-oriented or personal life related to the approval by the populace can affect the presidency, it is also evident that nearly all presidents in the U.S. have high initial job approval ratings, but the final ratings are relatively low.
Engler, Robert K. The Post-Gloria Essays. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2004. Print.
Gallup, Alec & Frank Newport. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 2004. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.
Han, Lori. New Directions in the American Presidency. Taylor & Francis, 2011. Print.
Murdico, Suzanne. The Gulf War. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2004. Print.