Low approval ratings are sign of free speech

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According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News polls, President Obama currently has an approval rating of around 50 percent. This is extremely close to the 49.4 percent approval rating of George W. Bush, following a consistent pattern with the approval rating of previous leaders. In comparison, CNN reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a high approval rating of 86 percent. This wide gap raises many questions, particularly: How is the approval rating of a country's leaders determined by its nation?

Media networks paint a melancholy image of a low approval rating, but when examined closely, it may not be all that bad. In addition to Putin’s high rating, Political Research Quarterly reported that the average person in Beijing supported the government at around eight points on a 10-point scale. Are the governments of these nations that much better than the American government? By many measurements, the answer is completely opposite.

It would be a lie to state that our government lacks problems. However, it can be safely stated that Americans have more freedom of speech and expression than citizens from nearly any other nation in the world. This freedom has given Americans the ability to speak their mind when they approve or disapprove of those running the nation. In countries like Russia and China, many citizens are afraid to speak their minds. Instead of true satisfaction, fear may steer their vote of approval.

However, an even more likely conclusion to the differing approval rating between America, Russia and China is the deep integration of debate and political opposition in American society. America’s private news networks often criticize those currently in power, whereas the ones in Russia and China have more centralized media on which insulting the leader would be unheard of.

In all honestly, a lower approval rating for Obama would not be a bad thing. No matter who is in power, the approval of American leadership most often lingers around 50 percent. This is because the nation has become divided by partisan lines and many people have quit thinking for themselves, instead allowing powerful liberal and conservative television networks to think for them. Other political thoughts have been thrown to the sidelines, so people often feel no other choice but to join one side or the other.

An approval rating tells as much about a nation as its leader. If a country has too low of an approval rating, such as Greece’s 14 percent approval rating, it becomes instantly clear that the nation has fallen to economic turmoil or some other disasters. In contrast, too high an approval rating signals obstructions in the way citizens think. It is impossible for a government to truly please everyone in the nation, and the only way to get a nearly perfect approval rating is through force or suppressing free speech.

The approval rating of the United States or any other nation is not an accurate picture of how a leader is doing. More accurately, it is a measurement of how a nation is doing. An approval rating cannot simply be “good” or “bad.” A truly free nation must aim for itself to fall within a realistic range at which people are still free to think for themselves.