U.S. Business Owners’ Approval of Obama Remains Low

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Thirty-seven percent approval ranks among lowest by job category

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — In an era of much uncertainty for business owners — tied to the healthcare law, government shutdown, and debt ceiling debate — 37% approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, eight percentage points lower than among all U.S. workers. Business owners have consistently given the president lower approval ratings, averaging 10 points lower than all workers since 2009.

President Obama Job Approval Ratings Among Business Owners and All U.S. Workers, Quarterly Averages

The Obama administration in July issued a one-year delay in the requirement that business owners offer health insurance to all their employees. That requirement is now scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. However, the healthcare law is still contributing to business owners’ uncertainty as they attempt to clarify how it affects their businesses specifically. Republican efforts to defund or delay the law are also at the core of the current government shutdown. Additionally, the looming debt ceiling crisis could have significant repercussions for the economy, which makes it harder for business owners to plan for the future.

Business owners’ consistently lower approval ratings may reflect disagreements with Obama’s policies specifically. But they also reflect the group’s generally strong Republican leanings — 49% identify as Republicans or lean Republican, while 36% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic.

On a relative basis, business owners’ 37% presidential approval rating ranks near the bottom compared with workers in other categories. Installers or repair workers (35%) and farmers, fishermen, or forestry workers (34%) have similarly low approval ratings. Professional workers (49%) and service workers (49%) are the most approving groups.

The rank order of professions has been fairly consistent over time. Service workers or professional workers have had the highest approval ratings of Obama in each quarter. The bottom spot has been held at various times by business owners, installation or repair workers, or farmers, fishermen, or forestry workers.

Highest and Lowest Approval Ratings of President Obama by Job Category, 2009-2013

These results suggest that the rank order of workers is fairly consistent over time. When the president’s overall approval rating increases or decreases, all groups generally move up or down rather than one group or several driving the change.


Business owners have consistently been one of the least approving categories of U.S. workers, in terms of the job Obama is doing as president. Gallup has been able to analyze presidential approval by job category only during the Obama presidency, so it is unclear if business owners’ low approval ratings reflect their views of him and his policies specifically, or a more negative orientation toward Democratic politicians and policies in general.

The healthcare law and its requirement that most employers offer their employees health insurance or pay fines is one of the more sweeping government regulations affecting businesses in decades. While the requirement’s full impact on businesses will not be known until after it goes into effect more than a year from now, government officials, business owners, and health insurance providers are trying to learn and clarify how the law will affect individual businesses.

Given Obama’s close association with the healthcare law, it is likely that its impact will go a long way in determining how business owners evaluate the president during the remainder of his presidency, probably more so than will be the case for any other group of workers.


U.S. Business Owners’ Approval of Obama Remains Low.


US Economy Most Important Driver of Obama Approval rating

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August 20, 2013

Obama approval rating on economy relatively weak at 35%

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — The economy carries the greatest weight of nine key issues in determining how Americans rate President Barack Obama overall. Americans who approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy are six times more likely to approve of Obama’s overall performance than those who disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. That is nearly double the impact of any other issue. The next-most-influential issues are healthcare, terrorism, and the federal budget deficit.

Importance of Issues in Determining Barack Obama's Overall Job Approval Rating, August 2013

The results are based on a statistical model that assesses the relative importance of the nine issue approvals measured in Gallup’s Aug. 7-11 poll in predicting Obama’s overall approval rating. The model gives an estimate of each issue’s independent effect on overall approval, controlling for the effects of the other issues.

All nine issues have a positive and statistically meaningful relationship to approval. The estimates, or odds ratios, estimate the increased likelihood that someone will approve of the job Obama is doing overall if he or she approves of Obama on a given issue rather than disapproving of him on the issue.

Of the nine issues, Obama’s approval ratings are highest on race relations (51% approval) and terrorism (50%), and lowest on the federal budget deficit (26%). His job approval rating for handling the economy is 35%.

The combination of his lower approval rating on the economy and its importance in predicting his overall approval rating makes it a problematic issue for the president at the moment. It also suggests that his overall approval rating is unlikely to show sustained improvement until Americans believe he is doing a better job of handling the economy.

Similarly, given their relatively strong predictive power and Obama’s lower ratings for handling them, healthcare policy and the deficit are also relative weaknesses for the president.

His major strength is on terrorism — 50% approve of his handling of that issue and it is one of the more influential predictors of his overall approval. Those who approve of the president on terrorism are three times more likely to approve of the overall job he is doing as president than those who do not approve of him on the issue. Terrorism could be one of the issues helping to keep Obama’s overall job approval ratings — which have averaged in the mid-40% range the last several weeks — above his ratings for handling the economy.

Barack Obama Issue Approval as Predictor of Overall Job Approval

Two issues on which Obama’s approval ratings are better, education and race relations, are generally less influential in shaping Americans’ overall opinions of Obama. So while the president would clearly welcome high ratings on those two issues, they have less impact on how Americans currently rate his performance more broadly.

Obama’s approval rating on taxes lags, at 36%, but that is less of a weakness for Obama than his ratings on the economy, healthcare, or the federal budget deficit because the tax issue is less important in determining how Americans view Obama overall.

These odds-ratio estimates give a sense of how influential each issue is in determining whether Americans currently approve or disapprove of Obama. Over time, the relative importance of the issues can change. For example, if the budget deficit becomes a bigger issue this fall as Congress and the president work out legislation to raise the federal debt limit, it could become more influential in determining Americans’ views of Obama more generally. But given that the economy and unemployment have been at the top of the most important problem list for more than five years, the economy’s status as the key predictor of Obama’s job approval rating seems secure for the time being.


It’s no surprise that the economy is the key issue in determining how Americans rate the job Obama is doing as president. He was elected during the worst economy since the Great Depression and has recently attempted to refocus his attention on it. It is not clear how much presidents’ policies can influence the course of the U.S. economy, and Obama may be limited in what he can do in general, given stiff opposition to his economic agenda from Republicans in Congress. Regardless of whether it is through his own efforts or the efforts of American businesses and consumers, the surest way for Obama’s approval ratings to improve is for the economy to get stronger.

Economy Easily Most Important Driver of Obama Approval.