Public opinion surveys conducted since President Obama won re-election show an improvement in his job approval ratings. Compared with those of previous presidents, however, Obama's postelection approval bounce has been relatively meager.
Most recent presidents -- whether they were running for re-election or retiring, whether they won or lost -- received a larger increase in their approval ratings after Election Day than Obama has, according to an examination of polling by Gallup, which has been testing presidential job approval far longer than other polling firms.
A comparison of the last Gallup poll conducted before each presidential election since 1952 with the first Gallup poll conducted after each election shows that incumbent presidents have seen their net job approval -- the percentage of people who approve minus the percentage who disapprove -- jump an average of 6 percentage points.
Obama's net job approval, meanwhile, improved by just 2 percentage points in Gallup's survey right after the election, a change within the poll's margin of sampling error. Fifty-two percent of adults approved of Obama's performance in Gallup's surveys both immediately before and after the election, but the share of adults who disapproved dropped from 44 percent before to 42 percent after (those numbers largely match an average of all polls since Election Day).
In 13 of the past 16 presidential elections, the incumbent has seen his job approval ratings improve. Just three presidents, all Democrats, have seen their numbers deteriorate: Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
Obama has more political capital having won re-election rather than as a lame-duck president. But his hand might have been even stronger had he received a more typical postelection approval bounce.