Poll: Obama among most polarizing presidents in decades

President Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents in decades, and his second year in office measured the largest gap in party ratings of any president since Republican Dwight Eisenhower was in office. 

According to new numbers from Gallup, Obama's approval ratings in 2010 were more polarized than they were during his first year in office, measuring a 68-point gap between the percentage of Democrats approving of the president and the percentage of Republicans approving. 

An average of 81 percent of Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing this past year; just 13 percent of Republicans approved. That 68-point divide is up from a 65-point gap during Obama's first year on the job. 

The next largest gap for a president in his second year in office came in 1982, when President Reagan earned an average approval rating of 79 percent among Republicans and 23 percent among Democrats, a gap of 56 points. 

Obama's 13 percent approval rating among Republicans is easily the lowest percentage any president has earned from voters of the opposing party in his second year in office. 

Gallup's Jeffrey Jones notes that although Obama's first two years in office rank among the most polarizing ever for a president, former President George W. Bush endured three years with larger gaps in party ratings. In 2004, Gallup measured a 76-point gap between Republican and Democratic approval of Bush.  

Part of the gulf comes from the increasing polarization of American politics and of the nation's political parties over the past 30 years. Gallup points out that each of the last eight years has ranked among the 10 most polarized years for presidential approval since 1953. 

The gulf also isn't necessarily a bad sign for Obama heading into 2012. Three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — all saw the largest gaps in party ratings come in the year they won reelection.

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