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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is the Public Souring on President Bush?

It’s fair to say that GOP fortunes, in general, and Bush’s political fortunes, in particular, are pretty closely tied to Bush’s personal popularity.  That is, many voters who aren’t enthusiastic about, or flat-out disagree with, many of his policies nevertheless support the President because they believe he’s been a strong leader, can be trusted and is–for want of a better term–just a good guy.
Evidence has been accumulating that this perception is changing.  In a late June Gallup poll, the president’s personal high standing on a number of important indicators was already sinking to unimpressive levels. Just 50 percent claimed that he has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems, compared to 47 percent who thought that he doesn’t. Only 54 percent said that he is a person they admire (down ten points since the beginning of May), while 45 percent say he is not a person they admire. And 57 percent said he cares about the needs of “people like you” (down eight points since early April), compared to 42 percent who said he doesn’t.
A just-released Zogby poll suggests this souring in Bush’s popularity is real.  The poll has Bush’s job performance at just 53 percent positive and 46 percent negative (note: Zogby measures job performance differently than most other polls, so his figures are not strictly comparable with theirs).  And his rating on various domestic issues is truly abysmal: 36 percent positive/61 percent negative on health care; 33 percent positive/66 percent negative on jobs and the economy; and 31 percent positive/65 percent negative on the environment.  Even his rating on taxes is more negative (54 percent) than positive (45 percent).
But it’s not just job ratings that are taking a hit.  The poll also asked respondents whether they have a favorable view of Bush as a person.  That number is now down to only 57 percent with 42 percent unfavorable.  That’s a drop of 9 points in personal favorability since late January.
Probably not coincidentally, for the first time in this poll, more likely voters say it’s time for someone new in the White House (47 percent) than say Bush should be re-elected (46 percent).  And in another question, Bush just nudges out a generic Democrat by 48 percent to 43 percent in a hypothetical matchup for the Presidency. 
John Zogby offers this assessment of the possible effects of a decline in Bush’s personal popularity:
What has been propping up the President in the past few months is his personal favorability rating. To me, what is most ominous is this alone has slipped 9 points in the past month. If he cannot count on a large majority of Americans to like him personally, this could spell doom for his re-election hopes because he has little support for his overall performance and how he is rated on the issues.
That’s it in a nutshell.  If Americans decide they like the guy much less than they thought they did, then they’ll be much less inclined to overlook the various ways in which they disagree with him.  And that  means trouble for both him and the GOP.  Stay tuned.