Amid falling gas prices and a two-week drive to highlight his administration's efforts to fight terrorism, President Bush's approval rating has risen to 44% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. That's his highest rating in a year.
The poll also showed likely voters evenly divided between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, 48%-48%. Among registered voters, Democrats had a 51%-42% advantage.
The results come seven weeks before closely contested elections for control of Congress. Republicans have struggled to overcome problems, including Bush's low ratings, continuing violence in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.
I'd obviously attribute Bush's rising poll numbers to his getting out and verbally supporting his position on Iraq and terrorism more. As I implied when I did a piece on the polls which had 60% disapproving of the war in Iraq, not all of that disapproval meant they wanted us out of Iraq or to not finish the job. His rising poll numbers, I think, validate that analysis. Many of that group wanted to hear from him and wanted to know his vision for winning in Iraq. Silence was his worst enemy.
Just as obviously rising poll numbers for Bush should mean rising chances for the GOP in November, and given what this poll says, that seems to be the case. One wonders then, given that, whether those who've been backing away from Bush will now want to embrace him a bit. My guess is yes:
Bush's approval rating has edged up largely on the strength of Republicans coming back to the fold — 86% with him now, compared with 70% in May.
Some seem to think falling gas prices have had a hand in Bush's resurgence, and I'm sure they have, but I'm still more convinced that his visibility and attitude about Iraq and the War on Terror have been most responsible for the rise.
The new findings reflect “a consistent, persistent, tenacious effort to make … the Republican Party's ability to deal with terrorism the No. 1 issue in the campaign,” said political scientist Richard Eichenberg of Tufts University, who has studied presidential job ratings during wartime. He called it “a carbon copy” of the successful 2004 playbook.
There you have it. The supposition is that Americans naturally back war-time presidents and are not apt to change horses in the middle of the stream. What Republicans are hoping for is by making the war (in Iraq and on terrorism) central for this election, the same dynamic will be applied by voters. I'd have to say, given the rising numbers for the GOP, it seems to be working.
The new poll found likely voters more prone to vote for candidates who support Bush on terrorism, 45%-28%, and evenly divided on those who support and oppose Bush on Iraq. More than a quarter said Iraq is their top concern this fall. For the first time since December 2005, a majority of people did not say the war there was a mistake; the split was 49%-49%.
Of course some of the opposition seems satisfied to whistle past the graveyard in the face of these new numbers:
Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin said Bush's approval goes up and down with each poll, and the even division of likely voters has been constant for a month. “There's no momentum here,” he said. “The story is Republicans at a standstill.”
Well, that's not the growing perception, and we all know what perception is in politics. I'd suggest that if the Republicans can successfully continue their strategy about the war and Bush keeps his visibility high and stays outspoken on his support for it, they may pull a minor miracle in November and actually keep, albeit by a razor-thin margin, the majority in Congress.
This recent polling data tells me that voters have a clear perspective on the war in Iraq...perhaps more cogent than either Party. They feel it is being handled poorly, they know what a civil war looks like, they believe Congress has failed to do its part in guiding and overseeing the executive branch, and they realize that the notion of exporting democracy to the Middle East is a Bush Doctrine that fails to recognize the realities in the region. Finally, they believe that Middle East stability is important and that a withdrawal that leaves Iraq in chaos may well be detrimental to the United States.
That, my friends, is one spot on analysis and suggests that voters have discerned fact from fiction with an impressive demonstration of acuity. Perhaps both parties will someday learn that the truth is, in the final analysis, the most powerful campaign strategy available. Don’t hold your breath.
I disagree with your conclusion that Iraq is helping Bush and the GOP. The 9/11 anniversary undoubtedly helped to pull Republicans back into the fold. But the thoughts of 9/11 are already fading - this poll was conducted right after the anniversary. By November, the terror issue won’t hang as acutely on the electorate as it did on 9/11 - particularly on Independnets. In fact, it has already withered, especially as McCain and Powell have openly confronted Bush on detainee policy. In other words, this may have been a high-water mark. And gas prices, as Professor Pollkatz has shown, have a remarkable ability to correlate with approval numbers.
The problem for Bush is that Iraq is not getting any better. Bush can try to spin Iraq in his favor on the 9/11 anniversary, but he will find that harder and harder as we get closer to November. Even the Gallup likely voter group (based on 2002 turnouts so it’s as very pro-GOP compared to the registered voter numbers) shows more Americans viewing Iraq as separate from the war on terror than believing it is a vital part of it. Down the road, that is going to be tough for Bush to overcome. Another problem is that so many Republicans in tough swing districts have already distanced themselves from Bush on Iraq. Are they going to reverse course now? Unlikely. Opposition to the Iraq war may not mean support for immediate withdrawal. But it does mean the desire for accountability and a change in leadership and direction, including SecDef.
Bush and the GOP got some momentum in the last couple weeks. But the gains are mostly a result of the 9/11 anniversary and falling gas prices. If the numbers continue to rise for the GOP in the next couple weeks then I’ll believe the GOP is out of the water. As of now, the Democrats are still favored to take the House, and have a real shot at the Senate.
Terrorism is going to threaten us for decades to come. To fight it, we had better find smarter mmethods. Public bullying of other countries and denigrating thoughtful opponents at home is not smart. Bush puts us more at risk every time he opens his mouth, because he produces new recruits to terrorism with every word.
Including all those he obviously created before he ever became Pres I suppose...
That’s a bit of a straw man, Shark. Obviously there were terrorists before Bush. But the atmosphere that generates support for even more terrorists has intensified since Bush took office. The point is to not create more terrorists than we kill, capture or dissuade from joining the path of terrorism.
Glad you realize that, in fact, the terrorists who were there before GWB perpetrated 9/11.
But the atmosphere that generates support for even more terrorists has intensified since Bush took office.
Any intensification of that atmosphere which is the result of our restrained, reasonable reaction is irrelevant—it was true already before 9/11 that if they had nukes they would use them. It is inevitable that of they exist long enough, they will get them. Therefore they must be beaten, killed or captured, deprived of their operation minimum of support. And that with all the alacrity we can generate.
The point is to not create more terrorists than we kill, capture or dissuade from joining the path of terrorism.
Exactly what Iraq will do as it meets the goals based requirements for withdrawal. Become a place which shows the Arabic/Islamist portion of the world that there is a much better way for them to live than to incorporate an acceptance of and participation in terrorism into their worldview.
Jon does not seem to realize it, but George Allen has a disaster on his hands.
Last night’s meltdown has shaken many Jewish observers of this race. Allen actually said that asking whether he had a Jewish background amounted to casting aspersions on him because of his religious beliefs. This man has deep-seated problems, coupled with a mediocre intellect and now finds himself in the race of his life. Regardless of whether he can eek out a victory here, I don’t think he will be running for President anytime soon.
We would be stronger in defending ourselves if there was a sense of unity, like there was on 9/11. Instead, party politics for Bush trumps national interests every time.
Ummm... there is something called elections in this country. Winning the election allows the office-holder to redefine national interests in more accordance with that persons politics. When your party wins majorities in all three houses (Senate, Congress, and White) your party’s politics are national interests.
Next, the administration fought the "war on terror" by alienating nearly every ally we had been able to accumulate. If there is another 9/11 or its equivalent, the world will not be with us. Bush’s idea of diplomacy is to call other nations names to humiliate them and to tell everyone on the face of the globe what to do. If you want someone to back up your position, you don’t start with name calling. We can get tough after a level of civility has been established.
I challenge every thing in this paragraph, which friends have abandoned us? Which nations has Bush gratuitously pissed off? Who has he insulted? A few nations , notably France and Russia were getting pay offs from Saddam, and embarrassment to them, but are now being more helpful in trying to reign in Iran.
Several world leaders engaged in cheap anti-Americanism to bolster their own political careers and at least two of those leaders have been replaced by their voters with more pro-USA leaders.
Please try to think for yourself and not just sprout something you read in The Nation.
I actually think that a better characterization of things than hitting on a winning formula is that the Republicans are largely at the mercy of events beyond anyone’s control. If gas prices stay where they are or go down and things are relatively quiet in Iraq, they may do better than it looked just a little while ago. If North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, not so much.
I actually think that a better characterization of things than “hitting on a winning formula” is that the Republicans are largely at the mercy of events beyond anyone’s control.
To a point, but that’s true about any party. What I’m suggesting, in this particular case however, is that Bush’s increased visibility and his aggressive support for conducting the WoT has been the major difference.
Kyle, Do you have your head in the sand? Have you travelled to Canada, Germany, Britain or any other old ally recently? These three nations now have ostensibly "pro-US" governments. But all show more vitriolic anti-Americanism than I have ever seen. Why? Because the people of those countries see America more negatively than every before in modern history. Here’s some recent polling on this. In Britain, 83% had a favorable opinion of the US in 2000. Now it’s 56%. Spain dropped from 50% to 23%. Turkey, a crucial NATO and Muslim ally, has dropped from 52% to 12%. Germany has fallen from 78% to 37%.
Maybe they SHOULD view us negatively because we have to take care of the dirty work of fighting terrorism. Maybe they’re all hypocrites for criticizing us, but then basking in the glow of our security. But you cannot deny that America as a whole is less popular in the Western world than in the past.
I’d like to see similar poll numbers from when Reagan was in office. I’d wager that once we get a dem into office and begin to not rock the boat again in foreign policy that those numbers will come up. (and if numbers can go up and down, and we worry about them, maybe we should just poll the EU population before doing anything.)
In reaction to the original post, I was speaking to the irony that Republican popularity would rise as a consequence of Bush’s speeches on the subject of terrorism, the area where he has performed so miserably.
Judging from the more muted tone of his UN speech, even Mr. Bush seems to have realized that his bombastic, antagonizing rhetoric is counter productive.
I would argue that public opinion is often formed by stupid reasons. A lot of women voted for JFK because he was cute. A lot of people support Bush becasu they seem to need a father figure to do their thinking for them. The gas prices of the week often determine the popularity of those in power, no matter which party the powerful represent.
The ’public’ never seems to get passed a knee-jerk reaction to headline news to think about the underlying policy issues.
We talk about elections as if the winners had won a badge of merit for best leadership, best ideas, etc. What they won was an election, involving a whole host of extraneous factors, like available campaign funds, marketing strategies, smear campaign strategies, and public opinion manipulation in what are often meaningless speeches. It’s quite possible that the potentially best leaders are never elected or never even heard about.
These are dangerous times. If we are to save ourselves, we really should become more sophisticated in our evaluations. Jefferson said that scepticism is an essential part of effective democracy, and without it governemt would be fed to the wolves. (I learned that from the NY Times’s Sunday crossword puzzle._
In a global world, our best strategy to serve the national interest is to preserve an image that the world is not repulsed by. The best leadership would make this country attractive to potential allies, not by coersion, but by example. The best leadership would sacrifice short term gain for long term benefits; I’m addressing energy independence here.
Elections are just electons. Neither party will save us, unless it can look beyond power politics to address a future strategy that is smart instead bullying, smart instead of devious, smart instead of just plain power hungry.
Stay The Course In Iraq= No end in violance or improvement on sight and further debt and death on both sides.
Withdraw From Iraq= Possible worse violance, slashed reputation, put iraq at a stalemate but troops will be out of harms way and be able to regroup for stronger enemies like Iran.
Bush has put us in a mess and we cannot trust him to get us out of it. Now that I think back about his stupid comments like "mission accomplished" or "bring them’ on" he just simply gave terrorists more reason to fight with will. Why the hell does the U.S. have to be everybody’s babysitter? When 9/11 happened Bush should have raged war solely on Al Qaeda and nobody else! Then we could have taken out Saddam. But if this war was more about removing evil tirants and promoting democracy in other countries why the hell didn’t Bush start in North Korea or even Iran? They were and still are more of a threat than Iraq ever was! Bush made our country unsafe and even our own allies are thinking twice about our every moves. Half of this country loves to be brainwashed by incompetent leaders...Never did I think Americans were this gullible. While Bin Laden is drinking Tea in the mountains sending his foot soldiers to fight in iraq our soldiers are shedding blood in the wrong country. Why is it the wrong country? Well we made it the wrong country! Iraq was not the central war on terror until we made it one! And that bullcrap about not letting the terrorists bring the war home to us is bull because they could bring it now if they really tried and what we going to do about it? We going to fight them in our own land if it came down to it too! So we need to stop acting like american pussies. Bush and everybody that believes in him are living in a fantasy world were they think that the Muslim world will eventually enbrace our way of life and adopt democracy. They think that by staying in Iraq for another 10 years we will be able to turn it into a safe democratic country just like we turned vietnam into a safe democratic country...oh wait a minute...that didn’t happen...10 years plus in Vietnam and what we got out of it?? I guess our country just never learns. Accusing Democrats with the cut and run bull doesn’t hold any water neither...What presidents raged important wars for the right reasons and ended victorious all along? That was both World Wars which were nicely started and won by Democratic Presidents! What about Vietnam? A democratic president started it just to have a republican end it in misery. What about the first gulf war? A republican president (Bush Sr.) started it and cut and ran from it without finishing the mission thus giving us this massive problem more than a decade later. We really need to regroup this country in the right direction because Bush is not going to do it! Doesn’t everybody see how Ignorant Bush and his follower’s are? The answer to our problem is a more competent leadership who perceives the world based on reality and not fantasy!