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Bush’s Approval Rating Now Net Negative on War on Terrorism!

Wow! Not only has Bush’s approval rating on handling the war on terrorism been dropping like a stone, the Annenberg Election Survey has now measured it in net negative territory: 46 percent approval/50 percent disapproval (May 17-23). That’s a first and a very significant first. It means Bush’s area of greatest strength is rapidly turning into political liability.
And check out the internals on this question: 41/53 among independents; 41/56 among 18-29 year olds; 41/56 among Hispanics and 40/54 among moderates.
The poll also finds the public now saying that the soldiers at Abu Ghraib followed orders (48 percent), rather than acted on their own (30 percent). That’s a switch from two weeks ago when it was 47-31 the other way.
The poll has Bush’s approval rating on Iraq at 39/57, including just 33/61 among independents and 30/66 among Hispanics. And, on whether “the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not”, the poll finds just 40 percent saying it was worth it, compared to 54 percent who say it wasn’t. Among independents, the split is slightly more negative at 39/55, much more negative among moderates (30/64) and stunningly more negative among Hispanics (22/75).
These numbers are bad enough, but the numbers in the new CBS News poll (May 20-23) are, if anything, even worse. Consider this one: only 30 percent now say the country is headed in the right direction, compared to 65 percent who say it is off on the wrong track. The latter is the highest number ever recorded by the CBS News poll since it started asking this question in the mid-1980s. As the CBS News polling analysis puts it:
The last time the percentage that said the country was on the wrong track was as high as it is now was back in November 1994. Then, Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.
The poll also finds Bush’s overall approval rating down at 41 percent, with 52 percent disapproval. I believe that’s the lowest of any public poll during Bush’s presidency. In addition, Bush’s job rating on foreign policy is 37/56 and his rating on the economy is 36/57.
Speaking of the economy, only 20 percent believe Bush administration policies have increased the number of jobs in the US and more people now believe the economy is getting worse (32 percent) than getting better (23 percent). Last month, the figures were roughly reversed at 30 percent better/26 percent worse.
Guess that better be a hell of a speech tonight! The public does not seem, shall we say, to be in a particularly receptive mood for the president.

18 comments on “Bush’s Approval Rating Now Net Negative on War on Terrorism!

  1. Haggai on

    Squeaky, I don’t think the Bush camp is giving all that much thought to Kerry on this. Their main concern is definitely the plummeting public opinion on Iraq, combined with the conventional wisdom in political/media circles having gotten to the point where only the most pro-Bush hacks are willing to say that his policy is working.
    For Bush, the media’s “what’s Kerry going to do now that Bush is adopting his position” meme is a pleasant un-earned side benefit. It is happening in some circles, unfortunately. Commenter “howie” provides an irritating anecdote in the comments two posts up from this one, and also see this stupid NY Times story:

  2. SqueakyRat on

    That’s the strategery of this six-speech thing — force Kerry out into the open on Iraq. It’s a problem for Kerry — he doesn’t have any great ideas about what to do in Iraq because there aren’t any good options. My advice to him is to keep pointing out that a wish list is not a plan. But in the end Rove may get some traction from this. It’s risky, though. If Bush repeats last night’s performance six times, its vacuity is going to obvious even to the feeblest.

  3. Doofus on

    On the issue of Bush doing five more of these speeches, the Kerry campaign ought to give serious thought to a “counter-programming” strategy. In other words, plan some Kerry (or Kerry surrogate) speeches or press confernces on the same day as each of those five. Also, they might want to do some ad buys to run in selected markets at the same time to blunt their impact. They shouldn’t just passively let him use the power of the incumbency this way without a response.

  4. Marcus Lindroos on

    I can see one scenario where “Shrub” wins (if only barely) despite a string of moderately bad news up until the eve of the elections. One, he decides he can’t win over the center so he starts pandering to his socially conservative base (gay bashing, school prayer etc.). That automatically guarantees him 40% of the vote regardless of how bad Iraq or the economy gets. Two, he launches a vicious all-out assault to smear Kerry as a Dom Perignon drinking Frog-loving sophisticate who will raise taxes and sell America to the U.N.. Three, non-partisan centrist voters will stay away in droves since they do not like the incumbent President but also dislike the Kerry character portrayed in the $200-million GOP attack ads. Four, voter turnout among the rabid political base (GOP vs. Dem. partisans) in Ohio, Florida and a handful of other states decide the outcome. Unfortunately, the Bush campaign has invested millions in getting out the vote and you can be sure Jeb Bush & co. will be doing their best to keep minorities, felons and other “unpatriotic” folks away from the polls.
    I am still thinking about buying $1000 insurance against a “Shrub” victory. That way, I will at least have something to feel good about if Flyboy wins a second term in November. I would rather lose the money and see Kerry win, though … “the Chimp” is just an awful leader of the free world.

  5. Sara on

    The really fascinating story of the past few days has been about the implications of the Chalabi and INC reletionship with Iranian Intelligence. The best story I’ve seen today is in the LA Times — op/ed section, at least the author knew some 20th century Espionage History, made reference to the Leninist “Trust” — but not to how the knowledge of the principles of the 1920’s Tust so spooked James Jesus Angleton that in the 60’s and early 70’s, he pretty much took down active agents in the USSR. Ironicxally it was Seymour Hersh in 1974 who published the investigative piece in the NYTimes that ended Angleton’s run. Bush Senior got in on the rebuilding at CIA during his year long directorship in 1976. Tiz ironic Bush Jr and all his neo-con’s apparently are the total victims of the Iranian version of this kind of false flag operation.
    The papers are full today of juicy lines from high level former spooks congratualating the Iranians on their tradecraft.
    While I’ve seen several efforts at analysis along these lines — I suspect that once the story is clear to people who have not read Intelligence History get the short but accurate version — I can’t see how Bush survives anything. In essence what the whole gang did was spend more than 200 billion of our money and over 780 lives at this juncture, to defeat the only major enemy of Iran and the Mullahs. The whole Neo-con operation resulted in that end due to the role Chalabi apparently played vis a vis Tehran.
    Yep — the Bush gang are really the grown ups!!!

  6. Haggai on

    James, don’t put too much stock in quick anecdotal evidence. Remember how the “Saddam bounce” from his capture was going to guarantee Bush’s re-election? It certainly boosted his poll numbers, but then it all disappeared within two or three weeks, since events on the ground in Iraq didn’t get any better. Speeches are even less likely to give Bush any real boost, not compared to the capture of America’s public enemy #1 for most of the past decade (the few months after 9/11 excepted, when we actually realized who the real threat was). As DR has been documenting, public approval of Bush on Iraq is extremely low, in the 30s in some polls. A few rhetorical flourishes aren’t going to be enough to change that in any meaningful way.
    One fear that I do have is the lazy horse-race dynamic of the press. Bush gives these speeches where he says he’s a strong leader, staying the course, fighting for freedom, etc. In reality, his policies are constantly shifting and startingly short on details. But, some in the media seem always determined to spin this as “Bush is moving closer to Kerry’s positions, so what’s Kerry going to do?” That’s a recipe for a totally fraudulent public discourse: Bush pretends to be a steel-jawed and determined war-time leader, while the press somehow turns his flip-flopping and incompetence into A STORY ABOUT KERRY. I’m definitely concerned about that.

  7. James on

    Haggai, I don’t think the press is as skeptical as you think (they sure weren’t on CNN last night). Anyway, the public seems to be responding on cue, if the once-increasingly skeptical AOL dittoheads are any clue (they usually have 3 negative; 3 positive in “What America Thinks” this time they only had 2 negative).
    “My president did a great job last night. God Bless him and God Bless America. We have a long fight, but we will win.”

    “Bush’s foreign policy has done irreparable harm and has proven that every negative stereotype of America is exactly right.”

    “I believe we should stand behind Bush and support him. He’s an amazing man [and has] courage and conviction.”

    “Congratulations on presenting a fine, clear, workable and honorable plan. I’m proud to have you lead our country.”

    “After three years, one thing is abundantly clear. Bush talks a good game, but there is no substance to back up his words.”

    “Don’t you people have the decency to stand by your president? Bush has done a great job.”

    I also don’t think that I can overestimate how many people fell for this “evil LIBERAL media didn’t run our President’s speech, they’re scared of the truth!!!” meme. I have heard this again and again and again, and it seems to be having a positive effect for him.
    It will take more than this to help him in the polls but if this is only the 1st speech out of 6 then you’re going to definitely see his polls shoot back up. This isn’t about what the media thinks anyway. He wants to get the confused and scared Americans back in line.

  8. Haggai on

    I wasn’t exactly saying that the press will let Bush get away with it. They let him get away with more than they should, but this isn’t the run-up to the war anymore, with Chalabi-sourced WMD stories blanketing the cover of the NY Times. By and large, the press is a lot more skeptical now.

  9. James on

    As Haggai mentions, the press will let Bush get away with anything he wants. That’s the problem. I don’t think this was a good speech but in the past he’s given worse speeches that were praised to the skies. So most likely, this speech will be a big help to him. What annoys me the most is how many people I hear saying ‘the awful liberal networks didn’t run our President’s speech!!!’ falling right for the trap Rove set, as always (he didn’t ask the networks to run the speech).
    As long as Kerry remains undefined, it’s still Bush’s race to lose.

  10. Jackie on

    ” . . . Bush’s approval rating on handling the war on terrorism been dropping like a stone,” No, no, no. his rating is dropping like Iraq. (get it?)

  11. Haggai on

    “will the administration successfully divert attention with deflective talk of “stay the course” and “resolve?” ”
    Tim, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the answer is no, not at this point. The public mood has caught up with the consistently awful news from Iraq, and it’s really gone south on Bush, as the poll numbers keep deteriorating for him with each passing week. “Stay the course” doesn’t work when you get to the point where most people are convinced that the course we’re on is failing.
    To be optimistic about it, I think Bush might be hoist on his own petard here, since changing course in a dramatic way would be nearly impossible to spin with his preferred image, show-resolve/stay-the-course etc. Meaning that even if he does change things up a lot and improve the Iraq policy (yeah, right, fat chance), he might already be assured of sustaining serious political damage either way–either stick with the current plan and look stubborn and clueless in the face of serious trouble, or reverse course and expose the entire “strong war-time leader/doesn’t waver” persona as a house of cards.
    A bit of pessimism might be in order, in that Bush has already gotten away with a fairly major flip-flop or two. Most notably, the direct outsourcing of the June 30 transition plan to UN envoy Brahimi, an almost direct contravention of the previous 12 months of administration disdain for any serious UN involvement. But the press, instead of greeting this near-180-degree flip-flop by asking, “why didn’t the administration do this 12 months ago, like Kerry and the Dems have been saying all along?”, decided to play the story as, “what will Kerry do, now that Bush is undercutting Kerry’s position on internationalizing the Iraq effort?” %^#in’ press corps really gets on my nerves sometimes.

  12. Miller on

    Interesting that it seems the public is connecting the WOT more directly with Iraq. The administration may well be painted into a corner by having equated the two if the public has decided that as goes one, so goes the other.

  13. Tim on

    I’d rather not be in the position of seeing a poll that says that a strong majority of Americans think that we’re headed in the wrong direction… and feel good about Kerry’s prospect for election. I truly wish that the country was headed in the right direction. It’s obvious that we aren’t.
    What got us to this point? Will the press go back in time and examine the Iraq mess and trace key decisions back to the administration? Will voters connect the dots? Or will the administration successfully divert attention with deflective talk of “stay the course” and “resolve?”
    Who can answer: What is the plan to get out of Iraq? and… when??
    I hope Kerry can.

  14. controller on

    It looks like Bush will need more than a great speech tonight. To date, I don’t think he’s given one in his 3+ years in office, so I’m not overly worried about that. The wrong track numbers are the numbers that stick and he’s now as bad as, or worse than, his father on this item. All Kerry needs to do is come up with an absolute great Veep candidate now. Since the Repugs cannot campaign on their main issue (war on terror), they’ll start blasting Kerry and his Veep left and right once the convention is over. Even if the economy is doing better, election history says that voters remember what happened six months prior to the election, and that is the high “wrong track” numbers when it comes to the economy. It certainly is great to see this happening to the Right. Their lies and favoritism is coming back to haunt them. Let’s hope it stays this way through the election.

  15. mikerbob on

    Looks like the Dems should take a play form the GOP ’94 play book and come up with their “Contract with America”.


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