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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Main Political Supports of Bush Presidency Seriously Weakened (Continued)

On Friday, I discussed two of the main supports of the Bush presidency–public views of Bush’s character and the role of Karl Rove–that have been seriously weakened, as revealed by the new Pew Research Center poll.
But the most important support of the Bush presidency is, by far, the war on terror and the public’s belief that Bush and his policies are keeping them safe. That belief now appears to have eroded considerably.
Start with the Iraq war. Right now, Bush’s approval rating on Iraq is down to 35 percent with 57 percent disapproval. That’s the lowest his rating has ever been in this poll.
That’s bad, but the really significant news here is that the public is now concluding that the Iraq war has had a negative effect on the war on terror and on their safety from terrorist attacks. For example, an 8 point plurality in the poll (47-39) now believe the Iraq war has hurt, not helped, the war on terror. This is the first time views have been so negative about the Iraq war’s effect on the war on terror. And the public now believes, by 2:1 (45-22) that the Iraq war has increased, rather than decreased, the changes for terror attacks on the US.
Reflecting these views, Bush’s approval rating on handling terrorist threats has sunk to 49 percent, only the second time that his approval rating in his premier area has dipped below 50 percent. It is unlikely to be the last time given how the public is starting to view the Iraq war.
Pew provides an interesting table comparing different groups’ views from today and about a year ago on Iraq war’s effect on the war on terrorism. Scrutinizing the table it is clear that white women, as opposed to white men or nonwhites, are mostly driving the overall public move toward the position that the Iraq war has hurt the war on terror. This is particularly significant because it is white women, primarily on the basis of security issues, who moved the most toward Bush in the 2004 election and provided much of his victory margin in that election.
If these voters are starting to conclude that the GOP is not doing a good job protecting them and may, in fact, be making them less safe, the implications for the GOP in 2006 and beyond could be profound.