Obama’s approval rating hits 50% for first time since 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama. (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
President Barack Obama, buoyed by recent victories at the Supreme Court and signs of an improving economy, has notched an approval rating of 50 percent for the first time since 2013, a new CNN/ORC poll found.

According to the survey, precisely 50 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing has president, while 47 percent disapprove. His approval is up 5 percent since May, when 45 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved.

The last time Obama reached the 50 percent threshold in CNN’s poll was in May 2013, when he topped 53 percent.

The most recent poll was conducted between June 26-28, just after the Supreme Court upheld a major part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutional. As the nation waited for the Court to rule, Obama also delivered a highly-covered eulogy for the Charleston, South Carolina shooting victims, which earned him positive marks for addressing still-simmering racial tensions.

Another thing boosting Obama is the economy. For the first time in six years, the CNN poll found that more than 50 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy (52 percent, to be exact). In May, the number was at 46 percent.

Still, other polls have yet to see the president hit the elusive 50 percent number. According to the Gallup poll, Obama is lingering in the mid-40s with a 46 percent approval rating and a 50 percent disapproval rating.

The CNN poll, meanwhile, still suggests there are tough issues for Obama to address if he wants to stay in positive territory. For example, 74 percent of Americans said racial discrimination against blacks is either a very serious or somewhat serious problem, a dramatic rise compared to 57 percent five years ago.

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And despite warm feelings about Obama’s eulogy in Charleston, the public remains unsatisfied with the way he has tackled gun policy. Fifty-three percent of Americans disapprove of the way he has handled this issue, while just 42 percent approve. On gun control, specifically, the nation is split 49-49 percent on whether laws against firearms should be stronger.

Whether or not Obama’s approval can climb past 50 percent remains to be seen, with analysts suggesting in the past that his rating could have a significant impact on the 2016 elections. If Obama finds a comfortable spot near 50 percent, the Democrats may have an easier time maintaining control of the White House. If he starts to dip into the low 40s, the chances of a GOP takeover increase.

Compared to his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom saw control of Congress flip towards the opposition during their second terms, Obama’s performance ranks in the middle. Around this point in his second term, Bush’s approval rating was at 32 percent, according to Gallup. Clinton’s, meanwhile, was at 57 percent.