Obama’s First Year Most Polarizing of Any President, Poll Says

By Fred Lucas | January 25, 2010 | 5:53 PM EST

President Barack Obama, right, holds a basketball given to him by Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher, left, and Kobe Bryant, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, where the president honored the NBA basketball champions. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama, who campaigned on hope, change and unity, has the most polarizing approval rating of any president since Gallup began measuring "approval gaps."

While 88 percent of Democrats support him, just 23 percent of Republicans back him. That is larger than the first-year gap for President Bill Clinton, which was 52 points at the end of 1993. Ronald Reagan had a gap of 45 points after 1981.

Obama’s first year in office was more polarizing than the average of the entire two terms of his predecessor George W. Bush, who had a 61-point gap average. However, Bush experienced a record gap of 83 percent in 2004.

Obama averaged 57 percent approval for the year, according to Gallup, but he has a 50 percent approval rating in the most recent Gallup survey.

“In fact, his 88 percent average approval rating from his own party's supporters is exceeded only by George W. Bush's 92 percent during Bush's first year in office,” the Gallup release said. "Obama's 23 percent approval among supporters of the opposition party matches Bill Clinton's for the lowest for a first-year president. But Clinton was less popular among Democrats than Obama has been to date, making Obama's ratings more polarized.”

The country was divided before Obama took office, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday. “We live in a very divided country,” Gibbs said. “It’s hard to change the way Washington works if some people don’t want to change that. Washington politics has been divided for some time.

“Everybody in Washington shares the blame,” Gibbs added, but he placed most of the blame on Republicans, specifically citing Senate Republicans for use of the filibuster for bills he said should not be controversial. The Senate Republicans, he said, “employed the filibuster with great regularity.”

Before Reagan, no president averaged more than a 40-point gap in approval ratings by party, according to Gallup.

“Thus, the extraordinary level of polarization in Obama's first year in office is a combination of declining support from Republicans coupled with high and sustained approval from Democrats,” the Gallup press release stated.

The measure goes back to President Dwight Eisenhower, who had a 32-point gap after his first year. The smallest gap was for Lyndon B. Johnson, with 19 points.