Incumbent Presidents and National Unemployment Rates

Check and X - IllustrationIncumbent Presidents have been up for re-election in the United States a total of 10 times since 1948.

Of these 10 re-election campaigns, a total of seven were successful.

President Barack Obama is up for re-election in 2012, and he will be in for a serious battle as he tries to win a second term.

Obama's biggest problem? A weak economy. The US economy is moving closer to a recession just ahead of the 2012 election.

It's fairly safe to say that the national unemployment rate will be around 9% by the time that Americans head to the polls in November of 2012.

As mentioned, three incumbents failed in their bids to get re-elected between 1948 and present day. They were:

Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
George H.W. Bush

A common statistic? The national unemployment rate was over 7% when voters went to the polls in all three instances:

Gerald Ford - 7.8%
Jimmy Carter - 7.5%
George H.W. Bush - 7.4%

(Note: November unemployment rates were used)

That means that the national unemployment rate averaged 7.56% in the three failed re-election bids.

In the case of the seven successful re-election bids, the national unemployment rate averaged 5.17%:

Harry S. Truman - 3.8%
Dwight D. Eisenhower - 4.3%
Lyndon B. Johnson - 4.8%
Richard Nixon - 5.3%
Ronald Reagan - 7.2%
Bill Clinton - 5.4%
George W. Bush - 5.4%

Only once (Ronald Reagan) since 1948 has an incumbent been re-elected when the national unemployment rate was over 5.5%.

When it comes to Reagan, the national unemployment rate had fallen dramatically in the country when it came time for the 1984 election. The national unemployment rate topped out at 10.8% in November and December of 1982, before falling to 7.2% in November of 1984.

On top of that, the US economy was rapidly regaining momentum in the time leading up to the 1984 election. The US economy had grown by 4.5% in 1983, and would end up growing by an additional 7.2% in 1984. Sure, the national unemployment rate was still high in November of 1984, but the US economy was clearly gaining steam.


Can Barack Obama win a re-election bid when the national unemployment rate is expected to be around 9% when people go to the polls in November of 2012?

Source: Historical Unemployment Rates

Source: Historical GDP Numbers

Filed under: General Knowledge

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