Half of the 10 most approving states in 2010 were located in the Northeast: New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Three exceptions were Maryland, California, and Obama's home state of Illinois. All of these states tilt significantly more Democratic in terms of political party identification than the national average.
Five of the 10 least approving states in 2010 were in the West: Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, and Montana. The other least approving states were mostly in the middle of the country, including Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Kansas.
Obama's overall average approval rating in 2010 was 47%, down 11 percentage points from the 58% he recorded in his first calendar year in office. For purposes of this state-by-state analysis, Obama's average is calculated for the calendar year, and is therefore slightly different than the yearly average calculated beginning with his inauguration on January 20, 2009.
Broadly speaking, residents of 20 states gave Obama an approval rating within three percentage points of his national average (between 43.8% and 49.8%). Twelve states plus the District of Columbia had average approval ratings above that range, and in 18 states, approval fell below it.
Differing Degrees of Decline
Obama's approval rating fell in 2010 compared with 2009 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, although the general rank order of the states based on Obama job approval was quite similar in both years.
Obama's approval rating fell the most in Vermont and the least in Mississippi. There appears to be no systematic pattern explaining the degree to which Obama either gained or lost approval across the states.
These 2010 approval averages are based on combined data from Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted from January through December 2010 with random half samples of approximately 500 national adults each night, resulting in more than 179,000 interviews for the entire year. The state sample sizes, which are presented in the accompanying table, range from more than 18,000 interviews in California to 348 in the District of Columbia and 467 in Wyoming.
President Obama's average job approval rating fell from 58% to 47% between 2009 and 2010. This nationwide average obscures significant differences across the 50 states of the Union. Obama's average job approval in 2010 ranged from about two-thirds approval in one state (Hawaii) to well under one-third approval in another (Wyoming). More broadly, the president enjoyed 50% or higher approval in a group of 12 traditionally Democratic states, plus the District of Columbia. At the same time, he suffered average approval rates of 43% or less in 18 other states, most of which are traditionally "red" states.
A look at the 20 states in which Obama's approval rating is within three points of the national average may well provide a preview of where the most intense campaigning will occur in the coming 2012 presidential election. Most presidential elections are fought over the so-called swing states, whose voters can tilt enough in one political direction or the other to make their state competitive. Obama's 2010 presidential approval ratings would suggest that states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, and Nevada -- all of which have average Obama approval ratings within one point of the national average -- may once again be the battlegrounds of the coming election.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2010, with a random sample of 179,503 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
Margins of error for individual states are no greater than ±6 percentage points, and are ±3 points for most states. The margin of error for the District of Columbia is ±7 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.