Increasing partisan division over presidential performance

This impassioned Republican discontent has persisted from the early days of Obama’s presidency, yet it is only the latest instance of a longer pattern in how the public assesses its presidents. There has been a steadily growing level of partisan division over presidential performance over the past 60 years, and it is driven almost entirely by broader disapproval from the opposition party, not by greater loyalty among the president’s party. And in that regard, the phenomenon is not limited to Republicans. At a comparable point in George W. Bush’s presidency eight years ago, Democratic disapproval of Bush’s job performance was on par with Republicans’ ratings of Obama today; in April 2006, 87% of Democrats and Democratic leaners disapproved of Bush’s job performance, and 75% very strongly disapproved.


Since 1954 — the middle of Eisenhower’s first term. (Before Eisenhower was Truman; before Truman was FDR.)

How much of this is related to the partisan realignment of the South? I’ve heard it hypothesized that the reason for increasing polarization is that the Democratic/Republican divide is increasingly lining up with the progressive/conservative divide — before that, the South was conservative and voted Democratic alongside the continuation of the FDR machine, and there were Rockefeller Republicans in the Northeast.

But Eisenhower was before Kennedy and LBJ, so it can’t explain all of it.

Possibly relevant: the Vietnam War started in 1955.

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