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Mr. Clinton’s fifth year in the White House was better than Mr. Bush’s or Mr. Obama’s. His job approval rating in January 1997 was 62 percent, and his popularity never fell below 54 percent that year.

Even when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in January 1998, Mr. Clinton’s job approval rating remained higher than 50 percent. His numbers peaked late that year at 73 percent as many Americans perceived his impeachment as an overreach by congressional Republicans.

Earlier this month, Mr. Obama’s average approval rating dropped below 40 percent for the first time in his presidency, according to Real Clear Politics.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll in December found Mr. Obama’s job approval rating at 43 percent, lower than Mr. Bush’s rating of 47 percent in the same poll in 2005. All other post-World War II presidents had approval ratings higher than 50 percent except Mr. Nixon, whose rating stood at 29 percent.

On the question of whom respondents trust to do a better job with the nation’s problems, Mr. Obama was tied with congressional Republicans at 41 percent each in the survey. Republicans, who had been trailing Democrats in “generic” polls asking voters which party they preferred, have reclaimed the advantage there as well.