Whenever a new president comes, he is always more popular in the beginning than at the end of his term. No matter how good he is and how successful he has been, there will always be more negativity and criticism toward him from the people of his country toward the end of his rule. It is almost a law. I would call it a law of ...

How would you name this "law" here? You can substitute phenomenon for the word law

EDIT: I am sorry if I again didn't explain my thought clearly enough. (As I can see from the first two answers here - I really didn't) I want a term that would describe the phenomenon of inevitable drop in popularity toward the end of a politician's term, not a term describing his high popularity in the very beginning of his service.

  • In the United States, Presidents preside or serve, they do not rule. Americans are self-ruled (theoretically, anyway).
    – Bob White
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 11:05

6 Answers 6


I've seen the 'anti-incumbency factor' being cited as a reason for a lot of politicians losing to a challenger.


The reason that there isn't a term for this phenomenon for recent U.S. presidents is that the data indicates that this is not the case. According to statistics kept at UCSB, since the 1947 election, of the 13 four-year terms served by the same president, only 5 of them resulted in noticeable drops of approval ratings. In 8 of the terms, approval ratings stayed the same or even made some modest gains.

This table summarizes the data -- approval ratings were taken at the start of the term (the first poll after the inauguration), and at the end of the term. Partial terms (Truman before '47, JFK/LBJ, Nixon/Ford, and BHO are not included).

Term        Start   End     Trend
49-53       67      32      -35
53-57       68      73      5
57-61       73      59      -14
65-69       70      49      -21
69-73       59      66      7
77-81       66      34      -32
81-85       51      63      12
85-89       63      63      0
89-93       51      56      5
93-97       58      59      1
97-01       59      66      7
01-05       57      57      0
05-09       57      34      -23
  • Jay - WOW!!! That's quite eye-opening. Thank you for this input. However, I would still want to have a term for those cases when politicians lose their popularity toward the end of their term.
    – brilliant
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 8:14

It might be an example of "reversion to the mean." The president's higher popularity at the beginning of his term is sort of artificial (due to novelty, excitement at having "your" guy in, etc.), and it eventually settles down to more "normal" levels.

  • "Reversion to mean" does not explain why only a few presidents have had noticeable (> 20 points) drops in approval ratings (GW Bush, Carter, LBJ and Truman). This can be explained by their perceived (or actual) performance.
    – Jay Elston
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 20:21

I don’t know about the effect, but the period of time after election during which a politician typically enjoys high popularity is typically a “post-electoral honeymoon” (generic term) or “presidential honeymoon” (for the elected president).

Another term worthy of note is that, in many democratic systems, the president still holds office for some time after the election of his successor. He is then called a lame duck, who typically has very low political power.

Regarding the view that popularity of an elected official is generally bound to go down over time, as you ask, I would simply call the phenomenon disillusion.

  • Please, see the edits in my question.
    – brilliant
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 21:41

That's traditionally called "the honeymoon period" that all presidents enjoy. It's also been timed (and referred to as) the "first hundred days" in office.

  • Please, see the edits in my question.
    – brilliant
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 21:40

"The swing of the pendulum" is the phrase in a two-party system, where the party in power inevitably loses popularity until it loses power, whereupon it starts gaining again.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.