Approval ratings haven’t been around since 1776, they were developed by George Horace Gallup in the late 1930s. It is simply a regular poll that asks simple questions — not all of which are designed for the presidency. And while the Gallup Poll was the first system used to rate presidents by percentage, it was certainly not the last. There are at least 20 major polls that go through and rate the president, stemming from news stations like CNN, FOX or CBS, to research groups like the Gallup Poll, Pew Research Center or the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

In higher echelons of government and research, the approval ratings are not used to determine how “good” someone is at being president, or how “bad” they are. It is used to determine the United States’ general feelings toward their current president, especially when used in comparison to other presidents, and is generally not taken as a cold hard fact. Like any broad polling system, it is subject to large societal factors that cannot be measured. For example, you could have a very popular president that always wears pink shoes, and some people just don’t like that very much, regardless of the fact that the question might be phrased: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way XYZ is handling his job as president?” There are a million factors like the pink shoes that can go into these things — that doesn’t make the polls entirely useless, especially in a comparative sense.

Of course, the news is now abuzz as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Gallup Poll

The Gallup Poll has him at a 37% approval rating, the lowest rating that Gallup has determined since President G.W. Bush. However, President Bush also had much higher ratings during his presidency as well — coming in at a 90% approval rating just after 9/11. His average was certainly not the lowest, and was actually just a bit higher than President Obama. The numbers most people look at is the “Average approval rating” and President Trump is currently the lowest in this regard since the Gallup Poll was first initiated under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. With that said, every other president has by definition completed their terms, and Bush saw wild swings in his approval ratings so it could be posited that the same with happen with Trump.

The highest average, as determined by the Gallup Poll, was President Kennedy (70.1%), and the next lowest average was President Truman (45.4%), closely followed by President Carter (45.5%).

Other Polls

There are at least 19 other polls that can be taken into consideration. FOX news also has President Trump at a low 38%, and most of the other major networks coming in around 36 or 37%. The highest poll was out of the GW Battleground, at a 42%. The average of all 20 was 38.1%. For comparison, the average of all 14 of the major polls for President Obama was 57.1%. FOX news had President Obama at 57% as well, and has generally reflected the Gallup Poll across the board, give or take.