Friday, May 12, 2006

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How low can Bush go?

I don't like kicking a man when he's down, but the latest poll numbers have the hard-working staff here at debating among themselves: how low can Bush's poll numbers go?

Consider the latest Harris/WSJ Online poll numbers:

Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. It compares with 71% of Americans who said Mr. Bush is doing an "only fair or poor" job, up from 63% in April.

Meanwhile, approval ratings for Congress are also sliding, as 18% of Americans say Congress is doing an "excellent or pretty good job," compared with 80% who say Congress is doing an "only fair or poor" job. In February, 25% of Americans gave Congress a positive rating and 71% gave a negative rating.

Elsewhere, roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." This trend has declined every month since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction.

Then there's this bit from CNN's poll:
In a new poll comparing President Bush's job performance with that of his predecessor, a strong majority of respondents said President Clinton outperformed Bush on a host of issues.

The poll of 1,021 adult Americans was conducted May 5-7 by Opinion Research Corp. for CNN. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Respondents favored Clinton by greater than 2-to-1 margins when asked who did a better job at handling the economy (63 percent Clinton, 26 percent Bush) and solving the problems of ordinary Americans (62 percent Clinton, 25 percent Bush)....

When asked which man was more honest as president, poll respondents were more evenly divided, with the numbers -- 46 percent Clinton to 41 percent Bush -- falling within the poll's margin of error.

The fact that Clinton is even in the ballpark on this last question has got to depress the White House staff.

So, question to readers: how low can Bush's poll numbers go? Previous predictions of bottoming out have not turned out well, so proceed with caution.

UPDATE: Mystery Pollster points out that the recent NSA revelations will probably provide a slight boost to Bush's numbers:

MP makes no predictions, but Bush can only stand to gain if the public's attention shifts from his handling of gas prices, the economy, immigration and Iraq to his administration's efforts to "investigate terrorism." The Post-ABC poll found that 51% approve (and 47% disapprove) of "the way Bush is handling Protecting Americans' privacy rights as the government investigates terrorism." That is "hardly a robust rating," as the ABC release puts it, "but one that's far better than his overall job approval, in the low 30s in recent polls."
LAST UPDATE: Well, here's another poll where Clinton outperforms Bush -- but I think Bush would be happy with that.

posted by Dan on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM


If there were justice and order woven into the fabric of the world, then that most austere of numbers, the crystalline zero (0), would be the perfect and fitting number for this "humble" president. The Hague awaits this thug and his cronies.

posted by: Stephen on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Has any president ever had a second term that was as good or better than his first?

posted by: Daniel on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Dan: when do you figure the next economic downturn is going to be? When it happens, it certainly won't help.

Daniel: Clinton's second term was better than his first - by a long shot.

posted by: Josh Yelon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

There's a whole blog dedicated to that type of questions on polling and approval:

… and there's a (now old) post which answers your question:

posted by: François/phnk on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

What is the 'core,' the 'true believers' of either of our two major political parties, as a percentage of the entire electorate? 30%? 25%? 20%?

Mr. Bush seems to be determined to find out. His severe slide (steadily below 50%) in the polls began last Spring, steadied only during two positive events in Iraq (December national elections and the October trial of Hussein), and then resumed their inexorable descent.

Like father, like son. Two of the most popular American Presidents, ever!, in modern polling (they both reached above 90%), then both wasted it all.

posted by: a Duoist on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

probably wrong way to phrase question. Should read: how much reality can right wing base continue to effectively deny? At what point does ignorance stop being bliss for all but the pathologically conservative? Somewhere in the high 20's I'd guess - although evidence suggests there's a lot of give when it comes to estimations of how stupid people are.

posted by: saintsimon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Françoise, thanks for that link. It shows that Truman had the all-time low approval rating of 22%, followed by Nixon at 23%.

Will Dubya match or beat those numbers? I fear he may, and do indeed fear it. While part of me would love to see the smug schmuck suffer -- and I insist he will go down over time as one of the worst presidents ever -- it is also a very dangerous thing, ironically because of the world Bush himself has helped create.

I think a president with less than 1-in-4 approval rating will be unable to govern, especially if the U.S. ends up with a Democrat-controlled congress this November. A (perhaps deserved) witch hunt may ensue.

But it so happens we are now riding the razor's edge with too many potential problems on the horizon: Iran's belligerence matching our own; our losing in Iraq; having few friends abroad; the dollar going into a tailspin even as interest rates increase; a huge debt overhang. Man, you name it and it is off-balance on both the domestic and international front.

This is no time to have a president unable to govern, and we know from the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney that they'll never admit error. A couple years ago a documentary came out on McNamara ("Lessons from Vietnam"?), where he spoke very frankly of his mistakes, arrogance and the wisdom that came out of all that for him. Cheney & Rumsfeld are too old to have time to acquire wisdom and humility (and the President simply lacks the ability for introspection), and not just the U.S., but the world is a worse place because of it.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

This is no time to have a president unable to govern

But if that president is Bush, it might be better if he can't do anything.

There's an old saying that it's better to do anything, even the wrong thing, than do nothing. Bush has proven that old saying wrong.

posted by: J Thomas on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Bush can't govern, but he can rule - by taking unilateral action, which he's been doing all along and prefers anyway.

I don't understand how the news about phone monitoring is supposed to help Bush. For one thing, it makes it clear that the surveillance program is illegal. For another, not very many people (no one not in that 29%) are going to think a program that has collected data on 10,000,000 Americans has "only targeted terrorist suspects and sympathizers."

If people have finally gotten to the point that they recognize Bush is incompetent, untrustworthy, doesn't care about them, only cares about his cronies, and so on and so forth, they'll judge the latest (and future) revelations about the program within that context.

I didn't think he could go below 35%. I'm amazed and delighted that he has - because I'm amazed and delighted there aren't as many complete loser wingnut lunatics as I thought and feared.

posted by: CaseyL on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

History has certainly shown the validity and wisdom of the evaluation of Truman at the dawn of the four decade cold war with the Soviet Union.

posted by: Richard Heddleson on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

The remainder would continue to support him even if he were dead.

posted by: Lord on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

All of these polls by the major networks and print media are neat for political junkies to discuss, but they are of little relevance. If you don't vote, then your opinion is irrelevant. These polls do not weed out the non-voters from the voters.

posted by: Tim Mathews on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

The only question that matters is the one no one seems to ask (or report) in these polls: will those who voted the last time for the incumbents in their own states and districts vote for their incumbents again this fall? If the answer is that 99 percent of incumbents will again be reelected, then I don't see how the President's approval rating can mean very much.

posted by: David Billington on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Today's (Sunday) NYT's Book Review section includes two new ones that discuss Anti-Americanism, which also covers Bush's unpopularity around the world.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

On the question of honesty, I will guess that Clinton lied just as much as Dubya but Clinton lied about stained dresses and Dubya lied about issues of WMD. Clinton dragged the country through months of wasted time with the Starr inquisition. Dubya's deceit dragged the country to an unnecessary war.

posted by: Chris Yearwood on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

He can go to zero. The only poll that has any meaning took place in November 2004.

posted by: Ted Craig on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Oh I think you guys are being much too hard on the Republicans. I have learned *so much* from one party rule, and I think we all have, and we just need to take it to heart.

1. Expertise is for sissies and elitists. Who really cares what scientists or foreign policy gurus think about oh, global warming, or Iraqi culture and political history, or energy issues, or bird flu, or North Korea. I mean, if lots of Americans die because of policy decisions, well, that's life. Life includes death - I accept that!

2. The thing federal bureaucrats need is a baseball bat to the (numb) skull. I mean, public service?? That's *so* liberal.

3. Who needs taxes? This govt was founded on the principle of 'No taxation'. (Some people say it was 'No taxation without representation', but that is an elitist view.)

4. The govt that functions like a chicken with its head cut off is functioning properly, in my view. This is a non-elitist govt which will present fewer regulatory and other barriers to me and my friends making lots of money. That's the American way!

5. Our social and political culture has been transforming into a rich stew of 'Kiss Corporate Butt'. Such degrading postures for citizens are very non-elitist, in my view. Also, humility has a strong association with Christian virtue - and that's a God thing!

We're on the Right track, folks. Just believe!

posted by: camille roy on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

David: The redistricting process this last time out (2001) really locked in a lot of safe seats for incumbents. The Dems have an excellent shot at retaking the House (if they can keep Pelosi out of the media glare). had an interesting piece yesterday on Joe Lieberman's Senate primary, and how that race is shaping up to be a bellwhether of sorts over on the Senate side. Bush's performance on the economy may save the party in November, and some positive media coverage on Iraq's progress couldn't hurt. At this point, Bush is looking to historical legacy. Pollsters are starting to compare Bush to Clinton, and Clinton's coming out the winnner. Let's see if G.W. can turn it around after the elections.

posted by: Donald Douglas on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

I'm not sure that Mystery Pollster has the direction right on the causation. As Americans have looked more closely at how Bush governs -- handling the economy, solving the problems of ordinary Americans -- his numbers have sunk. A closer look at terrorism -- where in the world is Osama Bin Laden? why is the NSA spying on Americans? -- may well have the same effect.

posted by: Doug on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

So if you don't like kicking a man when he's down,
why are you doing it?

My experience is that when someone starts by
saying "I don't like to do this but..."

It's better if that person doesn't.

posted by: bob on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Of the 29% of people that still support our "heroic wartime leader", how many still think that saddam was behing 911?

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

How low can Bush go?

The problem with this question is that Bush may have already reached a polling value so low he has nowhere to go but up.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

To the person who said that Clinton only lied about a dress, can you please shut up with your partisan nonsense. Everyone in the world thought Saddam had WMD, even some of his generals. This is what the dress stainer told Larry King in 2003.

Clinton told King: "People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons."

posted by: some dude on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Mark, Bush's poll numbers may steady for a while and ocassionally bump up on good news, but the overall trend can only head lower.

Even if all the Iran-related frothing calms down, interest rates in the U.S. will continue upward, causing the real estate bubble to pop*. Assuming it happens in an "orderly manner", it will still lead to higher delinquencies, in turn sparking the next recession -- even in the southern religious right states, who I am supposing are the bulk of those 29%-ers who still like him.

So to compound the Republicans' problems, the U.S. is likely to be in the midst of a recession at the time of the next presidential elections.

And citizens will take their anger out on the Prez. in the form of lower and lower approval ratings as the economy tanks.

* according to, the going interest rate on some $2 trillion in ARMs (floating rate mortgages) will adjust upward between 2006 and 2007.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

"everyone thought Iraq had wmd"

All wmd are not the same...ww1 style mustard gas..."which everyone though they had" was not worth the invasion.

As for nuclear wmd(or links to 911)...which would have been worth the invasion, very few people outside of the administration "thought iraq had"!
Did Clinton claim that Iraq could produce "a mushroom cloud over ny"?NO
They marking all "WMD" as equal is a joke. Some expouse a poor agrument for justifing the invasion of Iraq. It is a last ditch effort to avoid taking the blame for the boon-doggle that has unfolded in Iraq!

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

yes, what a boondoggle. saddam on trial, a new govt. has already been formed, several elections, and more importantly a govt. that is friendly to the US. Ooh, what a boondoggle. Just ask all the Iraqis who've failed to make it to the rape rooms in the past 3 years.

Oh, by the way, didn't Clinton sign the Iraq Liberation Act in '98 calling for the removal of S.H.? Why, yes, yes, he did. Gosh, I wonder why? Halliburton perhaps. You tell me, smart guy. Why did Clinton sign into law removal of Hussein, if you know, he was no threat as you seem to laughably believe?

I seem to remember there were several dozen writs from Congress for the removal of S.H. Only a few had to do with WMD.

You know what's pathetic? You actually trust a brutal, murdering, socialistic, terrorism-sponsoring nutjob over your own mostly benevolent govt.

posted by: some dude on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

You know what's pathetic? You actually trust a brutal, murdering, socialistic, terrorism-sponsoring nutjob over your own mostly benevolent govt.

You know whats even more pathetic ? Said brutal murdering nutjob actually told the truth about WMDs, while our benevolent Great Leader died.

posted by: erg on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

You know what's pathetic? You actually trust a brutal, murdering, socialistic, terrorism-sponsoring nutjob over your own mostly benevolent govt.

You know whats even more pathetic ? Said brutal murdering nutjob actually told the truth about WMDs, while our benevolent Great Leader lied.

posted by: erg on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

somde dude,
Rape rooms or not...Iraqis are dying a faster pace now than they were under Saddam....250k in 20 years under Saddam(genocide/ civil war) or 50k in 3 years of liberation(civil war).

As for your boast about a democratic government that is friendly to the US, one of those claims will give. Polling data in the last issue of Foriegn Policy magazine shows that Iraqi overwhelming dont like the US. Therefore if the Iraq government truly expresses the will of the people thier government wont be "friendly" the US long after the troops leave.
You conflate all types of wmd and you conflate various means of evetually "liberating" a nation short of a unilateral invasion and ham-handed occuapation.

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Some dude...are you really Stephen Colbert posting? Im waiting for the charge of "loving terrorists" and "hating american" charge to be leveled against me.
If thinking the Iraq war is counterproductve in the long term for military and financial security of the US ....GUILTY as charged.

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

So if you don't like kicking a man when he's down,
why are you doing it?

Speaking for myself, I don't like kicking Bush while he's down. But there's the chance if he doesn't get kicked enough he might get back up someday.

And that would be a national tragedy.

So american patriots have a duty to keep kicking him until he's out of office -- preferably with a medical discharge, soon. When Bush is in a nice facility where he can look out the window at the grass and trees and get psychological treatment and not be a threat to the USA, that's a good time to be merciful to him.

I heard a rumor recently that Cheney would accept medical retirement, and then Bush would step down in favor of Jeb Bush. It didn't seem all that plausible to me. Surely Jeb Bush would get more support from Republicans if he won the primary process first. And it would be a disadvantage running for office as an incumbent, it would be harder to announce the great changes he was going to make if he was already in there not making them.

posted by: J Thomas on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

So if you don't like kicking a man when he's down,
why are you doing it?

My experience is that when someone starts by
saying "I don't like to do this but..."

It's better if that person doesn't.

Perhaps there are reasons other than personal taste and comfort for doing something? Can you think of any?

posted by: perianwyr on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Bush's poll numbers could sink to zero and it still wouldn't knock the Republicans out of the Congrssional leadership. There's only one way - trade Nancy Pelosi for a Republican to be named later. The country won't put Pelosi in charge of an outhouse let alone the House of Represenatives.

posted by: Sweetie on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Answer the question, Anon:

Why did Clinton sign the Iraqi Lib. Act of 1998 if S.H. wasn't a threat? If SH was a threat, how can you fault Bush for taking him down?

posted by: some dude on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Bush is a dishonarable man.

And "some dude" defends that behavior.


posted by: NeoDude on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Anyone who watches Stephan Colberts show(taking him seriously I'm sure)would have seen his regular segment called "THREATDOWN"! The segment points out the world is full of threats... real and imagined. How does a leader deal with these supposed threats? Bush chose to exaggerate the threat from Saddam, unlateraly invade and occupy. It is a big leap of faith(one the repub want people to make) because Clinton(who you assume I supported)thought Saddam was threat, that any president would be locked into the Bush2 course of action. I just dont agree.

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Some Dude,
This thread is really about the level and nature of support for Bush2. I have been facinated by the demography of the support for Bush.
All the studies I have seen show 3 main corelates to voting for Bush
1.Being self described "very religious"
2. Not having been abroad (not a passports holder)

3.Being convinced that Saddam was behind 911.

Do you fall into one or more of these groups? Which of these groups has his support eroded the most from the 49% and 51% that he secured in both elections?

posted by: anon on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Anon, your 3 pts. above are hilarious as they are bogus. Show me the study. Of course, there is no study, and you'll probably link to some far out lefty site anyway.

Also, you still never answered the question about why the Iraq Lib. Act was signed if Hussein was no threat.

How about that the alternatives to Bush were lots more socialism and little understanding of the threat of Islamic totalitarian. I'm not religious, have a passport and did not believe SH was behind 911, which is a canard that the left keeps throwing out. Yeah, some Fox news poll, right?

Neo Dude: No, dude, Bush is not dishonorable. But the members of Congress who supported Hussein's removal before Bush was president and then supported SH's removal after 9-11 and then withdrew their support when the war dragged on, THOSE ARE THE FOLKS THAT ARE DISHONORABLE.

posted by: some dude on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Some dude,
Those findings are from Zogby.
I never said "SADDAM WAS NOT A THREAT"!!!!!!!! It is not wise to always INVADE every threat!!!

posted by: centrist on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

Some dude,
You have to be a may have to be a subscriber to get the data...but email John Zogby...I bet he would follow up.

posted by: centrist on 05.12.06 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

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