Saturday, January 28, 2006

Wash Post: Bush Has Lower Approval Ratings Than Any Post-War President Except Nixon

Back in December right before Christmas, the Washington Post and ABC News touted a joint poll that measured Preznit Bush's approval rating at 47% as his post-Katrina comeback.

Never mind that as those poll results were being publicized, other polls from Gallup, Zogby, Pew, ARG and CBS showed the preznit mired in the low 40's: the new meme for the end of 2005 was that Bush was having a comeback.

Now we've gotten five polls out in the last week that all measure Bush's approval at 43% or below and his disapproval at 53% or above. A Fox News poll has Bush's approval at 41%, an LA Times/Bloomberg poll has Bush at 43%, a NY Times poll has Bush at 42%, a TIME Magazine poll has Bush at 41%, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll has Bush at 43% approval (it also has 58% of the public calling the Bush presidency a "failure"), and an ARG poll pegs Bush's approval rating bottoming out at 36%.

Now a new Washington Post/ABC News as written up by Dan Balz in the Post measures Bush's approval rating among the public at 42%. Here are the details:

President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night marks the opening of a midterm election year eagerly anticipated by Democrats and fraught with worries for Republicans, whose hopes in November may depend in large part on how successfully Bush can turn around his troubled presidency.

After his reelection victory in 2004, Bush often pointed out that he would never again be on a ballot as a candidate. But the coming year in many ways represents another national campaign for the president, aimed at preserving the gains his party has made in the past five years, as well as rehabilitating a reputation that has come under brutal assault from the opposition in recent months.

There is no doubt that Bush intends to run this campaign as forcefully as if he were on the ballot himself. He ended 2005, the worst year of his presidency, with an aggressive defense of his Iraq policies, and he has begun the new year with an uncompromising justification of his policy of warrantless domestic surveillance.

Tuesday's speech, with its massive prime-time audience, may be the most important forum Bush has all year to try to seize the initiative from the Democrats and frame the election season on his terms. But he will be standing in the House as a far less formidable politician than when he stood on the same podium a year ago. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Bush with a lower approval rating than any postwar president at the start of his sixth year in office -- with the exception of Richard M. Nixon, who was crippled by Watergate.

Bush's approval rating now stands at 42 percent, down from 46 percent at the beginning of the year, although still three percentage points higher than the low point of his presidency last November.

The poll also shows that the public prefers the direction Democrats in Congress would take the country as opposed to the path set by the president, that Americans trust Democrats over Republicans to address the country's biggest problems and that they strongly favor Democrats over Republicans in their vote for the House.

The political stakes this year are especially high. What happens will affect not only the final years of Bush's presidency, but also will shape what is likely to be an even bigger election for his successor in 2008. Republicans have been on the ascendancy throughout the Bush presidency, but they begin the year not only resigned to some losses in Congress but also fearful that, under a worst-case scenario, an eruption of voter dissatisfaction could cost them control of the House or Senate or both.

I guess the post-Katrina comeback phase of the Bush presidency is now officially over, eh?

Even if we take the ARG poll with a grain of salt and call it an outlier, the other poll numbers all peg Bush's approval rating between 41% and 43%.

Not good for the GOP or the White House with the midterms just 10 months away.

But the numbers in the Post/ABC poll are very good for the Democrats:

Democrats see the political landscape as the most favorable to them since Bush took office. They view the war in Iraq as a continuing political burden for the administration, and hope to reap gains on the corruption issue, epitomized by the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. "Any reasonable reading of the trends would suggest that Democrats can expect significant gains this November," said Paul Harstad, a Democratic pollster. "That includes historical patterns, Republican scandals and a growing realization of the insidious cost of unchallenged Republican rule."


The Post-ABC News poll offers a revealing portrait of a restless electorate at the start of the campaign year. By 51 percent to 35 percent, Americans said they preferred to go in the direction outlined by congressional Democrats rather than the direction established by the president. On the eve of last year's State of the Union address, 45 percent said they preferred to follow the path of the president, compared with 39 percent who said they favored the Democrats' course.

By 54 percent to 38 percent, voters surveyed said they would vote for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate for the House in November. That is one of the largest margins favoring the Democrats in two decades, although the gerrymandered House districts mean that incumbents are safer today than they were in the past.

By 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans said they trust the Democrats more than the Republicans with the main problems facing the country over the next few years, the first time since spring 1992 that Democrats have gained more than 50 percent support on that question.


Democrats have gained ground in the past two months on two other measures. The public sees Democrats as more likely to stand up to lobbyists and special-interest groups, 46 percent to 27 percent. In December, Democrats held a lead of eight percentage points. Republicans still are viewed as having stronger leaders, but Democrats have narrowed that gap by more than half.

A total of 1,002 randomly selected adults were interviewed nationally Jan. 23-26 for the Post-ABC News survey. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus three percentage points.


In the latest poll, Bush received negative marks for his handling of Iraq, the federal budget deficit, ethics in government, prescription drugs for the elderly, the economy, immigration, health care and taxes. Only on terrorism did the poll find that more than 50 percent of Americans approved of his performance.

Where Bush has dropped significantly is among independent voters. His approval rating in the latest Post-ABC poll among independents is 37 percent. The Post-ABC News poll showed that Americans remain far from optimistic about the economy, despite steady growth. Forty percent called the economy good or excellent, down from 45 percent in December.

Democrats believe events on the ground, at home and abroad, will override political strategy and tactics this year. "If the economy behaves on the upside of the range and things go better than expected in Iraq, then Republicans have a fighting chance to limit their losses," said William A. Galston, a Clinton administration official now at the Brookings Institution. "If not, it's going to be a long, grim fall for the Republican Party."

Wow. These numbers are pretty incredible if you've just been getting your news from the cable channels where the Tweety Birds and the Joe Scarboroughs are all talking about how the preznit has got his mojo back now that he's defending his Iraq and domestic spying policies. If you only listened to those guys, you'd think the country was split 50/50 on the preznit's policies.

But the Post/ABC News poll numbers show just how unpopular this preznit is and just how much of a change many people want in the next few years away from the Bush administration's way of doing things.

51% to 37% trust Democrats to deal with the main issues facing the country in the next few years.

51% to 35% would prefer to go in the direction that Democratics in Congress have outlined rather than the direction outlined by the preznit (a 16 point gain for Democrats over last year when 45% of the public preferred to go in the direction the preznit was outlining while 39% wanted to go in the direction outlined by Bush.)

46% to 27% believe Democrats will stand-up better to lobbyists and special interest groups than Republicans will.

And 54% said they plan on voting for a Democratic candidate for Congress over 38% who say they plan on voting for a Republican.

Again, wow.

Obviously things could change before the midterm elections or Karl Rovwe could engineer a Diebold revolution across the country (if you know what I mean.)

But the way things stand right now, no matter what Tweety Bird and Murderer Joe on MSNBC think, things are shaping up pretty well for the Democratic Party this year.

And we haven't even had the frogmarching parties for Tom Delay, Bob Ney, Conrad Burns, Karl Rove, et al. in the Abramoff and CIA leak cases yet.

I bet the frogmarching parties won't help the GOP come November either.

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