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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush’s Approval Rating Does the Limbo! (How Low Can It Go?)

The honor of the second sub-50 Bush approval rating goes to the just-released American Research Group (ARG) poll which has our steadily-less-beloved president at just 47 percent approval with 48 percent disapproval–in other words, a net negative job rating. Just a month ago, ARG had Bush’s approval rating at a net +15 (54 percent approval/39 percent disapproval).
Breathing right down ARG’s neck is the latest Gallup poll, which has Bush’s approval rating at 50 percent approval/47 percent disapproval. That’s even lower than the approval rating Gallup measured for Bush right before 9/11, when Bush was at 52 percent approval but only 39 percent disapproval–8 points less than Bush’s current disapproval rating. In other words, Bush has now not only lost every point in approval rating he gained post-9/11, he is actually in substantially worse shape, because so many more people disapprove of the job he is doing.
Could it get worse? Let’s hope so. Here’s one indication that it might. Gallup has been asking a question for awhile about whether “the situation in Iraq was worth going to war about or not”. In contrast to other questions about this issue which have asked respondents to weigh the costs of the war against its results, and have tended to elicit split or negative judgements for several months, this question has yielded quite positive judgements until very recently. Just last month, in fact, 63 percent of the public said the Iraq situation was worth going to war about, with just 35 percent saying it wasn’t; now the public is about evenly split, with 50 percent saying the Iraq situation was worth going to war, and 48 percent saying it wasn’t. Moreover, the numbers of men and women who think Iraq was worth going to war are now about the same, erasing the gender gap in war support that had helped shore up Bush’s position up to and through the invasion of Iraq.
But the public still has a personal bond with Bush, right, as a result of his leadership after 9/11? Not so much anymore. Gallup asked whether Bush “has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have?”. Right now, 59 percent still agree with this statement, but that’s down from 64 percent in late June and about the same as his rating on this question just prior to 9/11. And 51 percent today say they disagree with Bush on the issues that matter most to them, compared to 42 percent who said they disagreed with Bush on these issues prior to 9/11.
Once again, weaker than before 9/11.
That helps explain why Bush is starting to run so poorly against individual Democrats in prospective 2004 matchups. Until recently, he won most of these matchups pretty easily. No more. In fact, Wesley Clark, who just entered the presidential race, now actually beats Bush by 3 points in such a matchup (49 percent to 46 percent among registered voters) and Kerry beats him by a point (48 percent to 47 percent). Other Democrats also do well, just barely losing to Bush–Lieberman by a point, Gephardt by 2 and Dean by 3.
With these kind of numbers, even the most adamant members of the punditocracy have got to start admitting this is one vulnerable president. But tell ‘em you saw it here first.