Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's declining
approval rating recalls the slide in popularity suffered by
Ronald Reagan, who grappled with a recession in the early 1980s
and lost strength in congressional elections before bouncing
back to win a second presidential term.

The following highlights changes in approval ratings,
unemployment and personal income levels during Reagan's first
term, compared with how things have evolved so far for Obama.


The early presidency of Republican hero Reagan, like
Obama's, endured the worst recession since the Great

Unemployment under Reagan rose from 7.2 percent when he
took office in January 1981 to a 10.8 percent peak in November
1982. Personal income, a measure of American financial
well-being that economists say clearly effects U.S. election
results, also stagnated over this period. It grew just 2.2
percent during 1982 in real, inflation-adjusted terms, and a
mere 1.4 percent in the final quarter of the year.


Reagan paid a price. Climbing unemployment was matched by a
drop in his popularity to 42 percent before the 1982
congressional elections from 51 percent when he took office.

Voter disenchantment subsequently led to the loss of 27
Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the
November 1982 elections, entrenching control of the chamber in
Democratic Party hands.

But the woe did not last and as unemployment slowly
declined, Reagan's poll fortunes improved. From a 35 percent
low in his approval rating, it rallied steadily to 58 percent
by late October 1984 as unemployment shrank to 7.4 percent.
Real personal income grew by 7.2 percent in 1984.

Reagan went on to crush Democratic presidential challenger
Walter Mondale, winning 49 U.S. states and 59 percent of the
popular vote to decisively secure a second White House term.


The recession that began in December 2007, and which Obama
inherited when he replaced Republican George W. Bush, surpassed
the downturn under Reagan in its duration.

U.S. unemployment in this downturn reached a 10.1 percent
peak and remains near that level, standing at 9.5 percent in
July. Real personal income grew 1.7 percent in 2008 and barely
at all last year, inching up by just 0.6 percent. It grew by
just 0.2 percent in June, the latest month for which data is

In addition, U.S. economic growth slowed in the second
quarter to 2.4 percent at an annual rate from 3.7 percent in
the previous three months, economists have cut forecasts, and
recent forward-looking indicators hint at further economic
softening ahead, raising fears of a double-dip recession.


Like Reagan, economic uncertainty and stubbornly high
unemployment have hit Obama's poll numbers, spelling trouble
for his fellow Democrats as they struggle to maintain control
over Congress in Nov. 2 elections and hurting his 2012
re-election bid if growth stays stuck in low gear.

Republicans also slam him for record deficits. But
economists say that has not had much influence on voters in the
past, who care most about their own finances.

Still, Obama's once lofty approval rating has weakened and
now stands at 45 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll
released Tuesday. The latest Gallup poll has Obama's rating
at 44 percent, down from 66 percent when he took office.

Economists remain broadly confident, however, the U.S.
economy will steadily mop up jobless workers The U.S. Federal
Reserve predicts an average unemployment rate of 7.1 percent to
7.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Unemployment of 7 percent is high by U.S. historical
standards. But political analysts say that if the past is any
guide, such momentum should be sufficient to keep Obama in the
White House for a second term.
(Compiled by Alister Bull; Editing by Peter Cooney)