Andrew refers to this as “life outside the cocoon” but I think it may be the reverse. Certainly, it seems to me that a healthy number of professional conservatives in Washington and New York are kind of sick of Bush and, if nothing else, blame him for damaging the Republican Party and the conservative brand. But the fact remains that Bush’s approval ratings are in the low twenties. If we assume (which I think is safe) that essentially all of that support is coming from Republicans, it means that the overwhelming majority of Republicans (though almost nobody else) thinks Bush is doing a good job as president.
Bush’s approval is actually in the low 30s but, otherwise, that’s probably right. Gallup’s most recent numbers show party ID split 37% independent, 32% Democrat, and 29% Republican. It stands to reason that those 29% proud Republicans comprise most of the 32% of Bush’s positive ratings.
While I haven’t seen the internals on the recent Gallup approval survey, CNN’s Lauren Kornreich reports,
Bush’s approval rating in the latest poll was 36 percent, an increase from 32 percent in June. But CNN Polling Director Keating Holland explained that the improvement is entirely due to Republicans turning around and deciding to stand by their president. “The gain in Bush’s approval is due entirely to Republicans coming home,” Holland said. “There was no change in the approval rating among Democrats or Independents between this poll and the last one, but Bush’s approval rating went up 16 points among Republicans since June.” [emphasis added]
My guess is that the Republicans most disgusted with Bush are those who identify with the party on fiscal and security issues and put up with the social agenda out of necessity. But Brooks, Sullivan, Steve Bainbridge, and other intellectuals comprise such a small percentage of the party as to be a rounding error in the polls.
Further, there hasn’t been a time in my political lifetime (the late 1970s onward) where the commentariat was happy with their party’s president. As popular as Bill Clinton was nationally, the liberal elites hated him. The conservative elites never liked Bush 41. Even Ronald Reagan was too soft for them, however much they pine for him now. And, certainly, Jimmy Carter didn’t have a lot of friends among the Democratic pundit class. Presidents are never sufficiently ideological, uncompromising, tough, or [insert politically ruinous virtue here] for the pundit class.
Now, that’s a steep dropoff from 82% Republican approval around the time of the 2006 mid-terms, 92% at the time he was re-elected in 2004, let alone the 96-99% the several months after the 9/11 attacks. Still, three quarters approve of his performance, compared to less than a third of the country overall.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look back to his apex:
Democrats and Independents have largely left the president. Relatively few Republicans have.