Bush Approval Ratings Fluctuate

USA Today is touting the latest Gallup poll with the headline “Bush approval slips to 45%, lowest of his presidency.” A quick look at the poll trends, though, shows Bush’s numbers to be essentially what they’ve been for months.

President Bush’s approval rating has fallen to 45%, the lowest point of his presidency, according to a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll. The finding, in a poll of 1,001 adults Monday through Wednesday, is a dip from 52% in a poll taken last week. Bush’s previous lowest rating, 46%, was recorded last May [Six months before he was re-elected?! -ed. Apparently.].

The White House declined to comment. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said that Bush is taking on “tough issues, whether it’s to reform Social Security, promoting the spread of democracy or making a renewed pitch to Congress to pass comprehensive energy reform.”

Independent political analysts said the drop may reflect opposition to the White House and Congress intervening in the Terri Schiavo matter. “You have to wonder if people didn’t feel that the president and the Congress couldn’t be spending their time working on Social Security and other problems,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Well, one could indeed wonder that. Let’s go to the Gallup site to look at the poll, “Bush Approval Drops Amid Souring Economic Views.”

President George W. Bush’s approval rating is now at 45%, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted March 21-23. This is the lowest such rating Bush has received since taking office, although it is not significantly different from the 46% approval rating he received in May 2004.

In the last three Gallup surveys, conducted in late February and early March, Bush’s job approval rating was 52%. The timing of the seven-point drop suggests that the controversy over the Terri Schiavo case may be a major cause. New polls by ABC and CBS News show large majorities of Americans opposed to the intervention by Congress and the president in the Schiavo case, and Gallup’s Tuesday-night poll shows a majority of Americans disapprove of the way Bush has handled the Schiavo situation. Almost all recent polling has shown that Americans approve of the decision to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube.

But the CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey suggests that the public’s increasingly dismal views about the economy, and about the way things are going in general, could also be factors in Bush’s lower approval rating.

A more accurate reporting, to be sure. But look at the chart carefully. Since being reelected, Bush’s approval rating has fluctuated from a high of 57 to a low of 45. The 57 was an outlyer, a spike caused by euphoria over the Iraq election. The numbers have otherwise fluctuated between 49 and 55. This is in a poll in which “one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.” This ain’t a lot of fluctuation, folks. Especially when one realizes that, “In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”

The internal numbers do in fact indicate that there is growing pessimism in the economy. If there was a Terri Schiavo question, they don’t include it in the press release. But it’s hard to get excited by a one time four point drop in presidential approval in a poll with a ±3 margin.

FILED UNDER: Media, Public Opinion Polls,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Clint Lovell says:

    The title of this missive should have been “Bush Approval Ratings Flatuate”.

    Tough week for the President following a tough week the week before. A seven point drop since last month. Hmmm…

    What’s changed? Well, Iraq is getting only better so it couldn’t be that. The UN was exposed again and again as the crooks they are, so that couldn’t hurt. He’s been having a tough time selling the Social Security reform plan, but he’ll continue to have this problem as long as he continues his “Do you walk to work or carry your lunch?” crusade to restore the short-term solvency crisis by offering a long-term fix to the problem. That might hurt a bit.

    Oh, then there’s the steroids photo-op that Congress ran last week. That hurt him, I’d bet, but seven points? Nah. Must be something else.

    I wonder. What else came up in the last few weeks that might have caused this failure in confidence by the public…??

    I guess I’ll be left to wonder as our party continues to wander…

  2. Marie says:

    According to a whole lot of people I have no right to comment on any of this since I don’t vote. I don’t vote because I can’t choose between worse or worser. Apparently paranoid, I don’t trust the government. I am a product of the 60’s. I am just a person who works hard, and has, for 41 years. All I want is affordable health care, a decent house, food on the table and the ability to take a vacation. I don’t think this is asking too much, especially when you figure up how high taxes are, from the federal, to the state, to the sales, to those taxes no one understands on the phone bill. So, Bush isn’t so well liked right now. I don’t like working either, but if I did as shitty a job as he has, I wouldn’t have a job. I am sorry, I just do not see where he has performed well for the people of THIS country. I would vote for a mother who all by herself, raised 6 kids, put them through college, with no aid from anyone. Just the ability to manage a dollar. Yup, there really are people like that out there. And I would not only vote for someone like this, I would help in the campaign. But we all know this would be impossible, right? Surely you all know how elections are bought? And you always get what you paid for? Right?