Bachmann Debate Fact Check: Obama's Approval Rating Not Lowest in Modern History

  @ibtimes on September 23 2011 12:35 PM
2012 Election
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaking during Thursday night's GOP presidential candidate debate. REUTERS

In every presidential debate, Republican or Democrat, a number of false statements are made. Some of them are pointed out and the candidates are held accountable for them, but more often, they simply slip by. Michele Bachmann had one of those in Thursday's Republican debate in Orlando, Fla.

In response to a question about which of the other candidates she would choose as her hypothetical running mate, Bachmann responded: Every four years, conservatives are told that we have to settle. It's anybody but Obama -- that's what we're hearing this year. I don't think that's true. I think if there's any year -- President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times. He hasn't gone to the basement yet. It'll be a lot lower than what it is now. That's why we need to choose a candidate who represents conservatives and constitutional conservative positions.

A Bachmann Misread of Poll Data

Her main point was that voters should choose the most solidly conservative person in the race -- presumably her -- but tucked into the middle of her statement was a blatant lie: President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times.

Most viewers probably took that fact for granted, because Obama's approval ratings are currently the lowest of his presidency. But they are far from the lowest of any modern president.

Obama's ratings in the most recent Gallup Polls have fluctuated between 38 and 39 percent. Those are very poor numbers, to be sure -- but actually, every single president since John F. Kennedy has fallen below that mark at least once while in office.

The lowest postwar approval rating was 22 percent for Harry Truman in February 1952. The second lowest was Richard Nixon's 24 percent at the height of the Watergate scandal in 1974, the third lowest was George W. Bush's 25 percent rating in October 2008, the fourth lowest was George H.W. Bush's 29 percent rating in July 1992 -- and the list goes on.

So the reality behind Bachmann's false statement is this: No one can deny that Obama's numbers are bad, but they're not unusually bad.

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