Presidential approval rating

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Presidential approval rating

The author is the deputy editor of the economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Who was the least popular president in U.S. history? Was it Richard Nixon, who resigned amid the Watergate scandal, or Bill Clinton, who was on the verge of impeachment over a sex scandal, or Donald Trump, who frequently used reckless language throughout his term? Answer: None of the above.

The least popular president of the United States was Harry Truman, the 33rd president who served from 1945 to 1953. His approval rating in the later part of his term fell to 32 percent, the lowest since Gallup began to survey the approval rating in 1938. Not even Donald Trump broke that, with 34 rating at his worst.

World War II ended right after Truman took office. The aftermath of the war was harsh. Prices soared and unemployment increased. The rate of consumer price increase was 14.4 percent in 1947, a record not broken even during the oil shocks in the 1970s and ‘80s. Despite the high prices and unemployment rate, President Truman failed to present proper solutions, and the public responded with the lowest rating ever.

Who was the least popular Korean president? There are not as many presidents to compare as the United States. During the military rule, a proper opinion poll wouldn’t have even been possible. Gallup Korea started to conduct evaluations on presidential performance regularly from 1988, and former President Kim Young-sam received the lowest rating. At the end of his term, his approval rating was a mere 6 percent, as Korea filed for an IMF bailout in 1997.

Lately, President Yoon Suk-yeol’s approval rating is a hot topic. There are many analyses over how his rating slipped to the 20 percent level only three months after inauguration. He made some failed appointments and has been inconsistent with policies, most notably attempting to make 5-year-olds enter elementary school. He is unable to communicate and is known to be arrogant. Above all else, the key is in the economic indicators.

Inflation is at its highest since 1988, and fluctuations of interest rates and exchange rates are as unstable as the time of the financial crisis. The public is furious that the president is not only incompetent but also indifferent to the economy despite ominous signs everywhere.

It is useless for the president to make a guest appearance in various economy-related meetings and nag the ministers to do better, and make meaningless site visits. It is clear that the presidential term is finite, but the label of a “failed president” is permanent.
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