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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Like Ouch, Man

If Maynard G. Krebs, beatnik extraordinaire, worked down at RNC headquarters, that’s what he’d likely be saying about the latest round of public polls.
Newly-released data from the latest Pew Research Center poll include the following dreadful approval ratings for Bush: 43 percent approval/50 percent disapproval overall; 42/43 on the environment; 38/46 on foreign policy; 37/56 on the Iraq situation; 35/57 on the economy; 31/49 on energy policy; and 29/56 on Social Security.
The Pew analysis of the poll notes that the biggest factors (based on a regression model) driving Bush’s poor overall approval rating are the public’s negative views of his handling of the economy and of the Iraq situation.
The Pew poll also includes a series of questions asking respondents whether the country is making progress, losing ground or staying about the same on a series of important issues. The worst result was on the budget deficit, where 65 percent say we’re losing ground and just 6 percent think we’re making progress. That’s followed by Social Security finances (63/6), how the health care system is working (62/9), Medicare finances (56/5), availability of good-paying jobs (55/15), illegal immigration (52/11) and the quality of public education (50/20). On the health care system, going back to 1994, and the budget deficit, going back to 1989, these are the most negative assessments ever. And on job availability, only an early 1994 reading is more negative than the public’s assessment today.
Speaking of job availability and the economy, the latest ARG poll indicates extraordinarily high levels of economic pessimism. Bush’s economic approval rating in the poll, 35/57, closely matches Pew’s rating (as does Bush’s overall approval rating at 43/51). And just 19 percent in the poll say the national economy is getting better, compared to 59 percent who say it is getting worse. Moreover, only 21 percent expect the economy to be better in a year, compared to 51 percent who say it will be worse.
In terms of their household financial situation, a mere 9 percent report that their financial situation is getting better, while 61 percent say it is getting worse. And expectations for a year from now are only slightly more positive: 23 percent say their finances should be better, while 50 percent expect them to be worse.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has right direction/wrong track at 35/52 and indicates a number of ways in which Bush and his administrattion are seriously out of step with the American public (for the public’s views on Congress, see this earlier post).
Just 35 percent say Bush has the same priorities for the country as they do, compared to 57 percent who say his priorities are different. By 49 to 12 percent, the public says Bush and his administration are placing too much, rather than too little, emphasis on Iraq and, by 30-27, they feel the same way about “issues related to moral values”. On the other hand, they feel very strongly that too little (65 percent) rather than too much (1 percent) emphasis is being placed on jobs and the economy and express similar sentiments about health care (75/3), education (57/8) and gas prices (64/9).
Consistent with this overwhelming sense that the Bush administration is putting too little emphasis on jobs and the economy, the public finds Bush administration economic policy falling short in almost every area of the economy (the one exception is on keeping interest rates low). Bush administration policies receive their worst ratings on keeping manufacturing jobs in the country (69 percent not working well vs. 10 percent working well) followed by dealing with the price of gas (67/11), managing the federal budget (65/15), keeping white collar jobs in the country (48/23), expanding the number of new jobs (48/24), controlling inflation (43/28), improving the overall economy (39/30), encouraging retirement savings (38/32) and keeping taxes low (43/34).
The public also expresses lop-sided support for Congress holding hearings on gas prices (66 percent support/13 percent oppose) and for Congress investigating Tom DeLay’s relationships with lobbyists. And the public continues to think, by a wide margin, that is a bad idea (56 percent), rather than good idea (36 percent), to change the Social Security system to allow workers to invest their Social Security contributions in the stock market. Moreover, those who believe private accounts are a bad idea are quite unlikely to change their minds (62 percent say their position is firm), while those who believe these accounts are a good idea are quite open to shifting their position (62 percent say they’re open to changing their minds).
Things just seem to be going from bad to worse for the Bush administration. Or, as Mr. Krebs might put it: Like ouch, man–like double ouch.