Barack Obama has been one of the more polarizing Presidents of this generation. The reason why is up for debate, but the proliferation of social media is certainly one possible explanation; it allows citizens to more strongly filter their political opinions and resonate with likeminded voters. The American people have shown their level of disapproval in elections, as the Republican party currently controls both the Senate and House, limiting Obama’s ability to push through legislation (compare this to the Democrat majority across all branches in the wake of 2008).
Obama’s approval rating sank to 44% in December, which is not entirely unexpected (many Presidents show a similar decline towards the end of their last term). What has been a bit unexpected is the big surge in his approval rating since then: he’s currently at 53%, a huge gain for a four-month period. The reason why is hard to decipher, but it could be a number of factors, such as relative prosperity, low unemployment rates, and no ongoing wars that are draining the economy. It also could be a reaction to the current primary season, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have historically high unfavorable ratings in polls.
Ultimately, this news is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans. A high approval for an outgoing President is a strong indicator for his party to retain control. As the frontrunner for the Republican Party, Trump will have more difficulty building his campaign around being against Obama’s legacy. More importantly, the high approval rating means that the American public would be more likely to elect a Democrat to continue the same policies, which is good news for Clinton.