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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush’s 17th Quarter Approval Ratings Lag Far Behind His Predecessors

A new Gallup report finds that Bush averaged 50.7 percent approval (just 43 percent among independents) in the 17 quarter of his presidency (January 20-April 19, 2005). That compares quite poorly with his predecessors. The report notes:

Most other presidents were well above the 50% job approval mark at similar points in their presidencies: Dwight Eisenhower at 69.0%, Richard Nixon at 60.8%, Ronald Reagan at 58.0%, and Bill Clinton at 57.5%. The lone exception was Lyndon Johnson, who — unlike the other presidents — was not beginning his second term during the 17th quarter of his presidency, but rather, nearing the end of it. An average of 44.3% of Americans approved of Johnson at that time. In Johnson’s first full quarter after being re-elected (January to April 1965) — similar to where Bush and the other presidents were in their 17th quarters — he averaged 68.4% job approval.

The report concludes:

Absent some dramatic international or domestic event that could produce a rally in support, Bush’s approval ratings are unlikely to improve substantially in the near term. In the long term, the state of the economy and Bush’s ability to handle pressing issues such as Social Security, Iraq, and energy costs will help determine whether Bush can break out of the low 50% approval range, or whether he will slip below that level.

In light of what has been happening lately, especially on the economy, slipping below that 50 percent level seems like a very real possibility.
On Monday, for example, the New York Times had a front page story on “Sudden Bearish Sentiment Underlines Fears on Economy“, detailing the sudden and serious investor jitters about the economy.
Also on Monday, Paul Krugman pointed to the unmistakable signs of stagflation that are now afflicting the economy.
Last week, several papers, including the Times, pointed out that real wages in the last year have declined, reversing the steady progress in living standards that had started under Bill Clinton in the mid-90’s.
And on April 11, I posted on the latest evidence concerning declining consumer confidence and rising consumer credit worries.
Maybe Bush better savor that 50.7 percent average while he’s got it!