The Growing Partisan Divide: Americans More Split Along Party Lines in Obama Year Two

From his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention through last month's tragedy in Tucson, President Obama's message has been to unite all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike. But Americans don't seem to have gotten that message: the country has never been more divided during a president's first two years in office.

According to the latest Gallup poll, an average of 81 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Republicans approved of the job the president is doing, a 68-point gap. That spread is up three points from last year when President Obama set a record for partisan divide among first year presidents. Gallup's data starts in 1954-55, Eisenhower's second year in office.

It's the fourth highest difference since Gallup started keeping track, behind President George W. Bush's fourth, fifth, and sixth years, with the largest gap in 2004-5 where 91 percent of Republicans approved compared with 15 percent of Democrats, a 76-point gap.

Although the polling company acknowledges that people are always more likely to favor the president of their own party, Gallup notes a trend toward increasing polarization since President Reagan took office. Before that, no president averaged more than a 40-point gap in approval ratings by party. Since then, every president except George H.W. Bush has seen a 50-point divide by party.

President George W Bush accounts for six of the top 10 largest gaps. The only other presidents to make the top 10 were President Reagan and President Bill Clinton, each on the year they were re-elected, proving that a big gap doesn't necessarily spell doom for re-election. Similarly, a small gap doesn't necessarily ensure any future success. In Jimmy Carter's second year, 28 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats approved, a 29-point gap.