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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturing in the United States as he visits Master Lock in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 15, 2012.


There has been no Watergate, Iran hostage crisis or Monica Lewinsky. And Barack Obama did get Osama Bin Laden, end the war in Iraq and possibly save the United States from a second Great Depression.

Yet, fully 50 per cent of Americans think Mr. Obama's presidency has been a failure.

Talk about a tough crowd.

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Indeed, only 44 per cent of voters told Gallup they view Mr. Obama's first term as a success, according to a survey done by the polling firm for USA Today.

According to Gallup, Mr. Obama undertakes his campaign for a second term in office with the lowest favourability rating of any presidential nominee since Republican Bob Dole in 1996. As of mid-February, Mr. Obama's favourability rating stood at 50 per cent.

Even George W. Bush had recovered enough by the outset of his re-election bid to see his favourability rating rise to 56 per cent in early 2004. Bill Clinton was at 60 per cent by this point in his presidency.

And George H.W. Bush, who lost to Mr. Clinton in the 1992 election, was still riding a post-Cold War high earlier that year with a favourability rating of 55 per cent.

If Mr. Obama can take any consolation in the numbers, it is that all four of the remaining candidates for the Republican nomination have lower favorability ratings than him.

Mitt Romney, still Mr. Obama's most likely rival in November, has seen his numbers slide dramatically as he becomes the target of attack ads sponsored by the GOP contenders and the Obama campaign machine.

Mr. Romney's favourability rating stands at 39 per cent among all voters and at 45 per cent among voters with an opinion. Indeed, the saving grace of all the GOP candidates is that there are still plenty of voters who have not formed an opinion about them, while only 2 per cent of voters are unsure of how they feel about Mr. Obama.

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And who is the most loathed of them all?

That would be Newt Gingrich. The former speaker of House of Representatives and on-again, off-again GOP frontrunner is viewed unfavourably by 61 per cent of voters. Only 26 per cent see him in favourable light. About 14 per cent have no opinion of him.

Overall, Americans are still more likely to view Mr. Obama as a better president than Richard (Watergate) Nixon, Jimmy (Iran hostage crisis) Carter or George W. Bush. But according to a separate Gallup survey, he has a long way to go before he is viewed in the same league as Ronald Reagan or Mr. Clinton, whose affair with Ms. Lewinsky led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Fully 69 per cent of Americans view Mr. Reagan's two terms in the Oval Office until 1989 as either outstanding or above average. Only 10 per cent consider him to have been a poor president.

Mr. Clinton fares nearly as well, with 60 per cent considering his presidency either outstanding or above average, while 12 per cent think he did a poor job.

More than a third of Americans think Mr. Obama has been a poor president. About a quarter think he's done an average job. And 38 per cent think consider him above average or outstanding.

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As for George W. Bush, his image is on the mend, if only slightly. When he left office in 2009, fully 59 per cent of Americans thought he had been a poor president. That figure was down to 47 per cent earlier this month.

What's more, a quarter of Americans now think he was an outstanding or above average president – up from 17 per cent in 2009.

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About the Author

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail’s Comment section and Report on Business. More

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