Bush Approval Ratings Highest in a Year
Americans gave President Bush his highest approval rating in more than a year and showed cautious optimism about Iraq in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken days after historic elections in Iraq. In reversals from a month ago, majorities said that going to war in Iraq was not a mistake, that things are going well there and that it’s likely democracy will be established in Iraq. (Related item: Poll results)
Bush’s approval rating of 57% was his highest since he reached 59% in January 2004. Strategists from both parties attributed the rise to timing. The public remains skeptical about Bush’s plans to partially privatize Social Security, however. Only 44% said they approved of his approach, compared with 50% who said they disapproved. And Bush’s domestic agenda continues to diverge from the priorities cited in the poll. Health care costs, education and the economy were the top three items considered “extremely important” for Bush and Congress to deal with. The last four Ã¢€” Social Security, taxes, same-sex marriage and limits on lawsuits Ã¢€” all are on Bush’s front burner.
The poll of 1,010 adults was conducted Friday-Sunday Ã¢€” after the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq and Bush’s State of the Union address Wednesday highlighting the vote. The poll’s margin of error was +/Ã¢€”3 percentage points.
“Nothing breeds success like success,” said Matthew Dowd, a Bush strategist. People now feel the decisions Bush made “were the right ones,” he said, and that translates into a general increase of trust in his leadership. Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster and strategist, said Bush’s high numbers are a temporary function of “a positive news event” (the Iraqi elections) and a well-received State of the Union address. He predicted they would be superseded in coming weeks by “Social Security privatization and a budget proposal that is deficit-laden, even with huge cuts in domestic programs.”
The Iraq numbers were striking in their consistency. Six in 10 people said the elections there went better than they expected. In other measures:
Ã¢€¢ 55% said the United States did not make a mistake sending troops to Iraq, up from 47% last month.
Ã¢€¢ 53% said things are going very or moderately well in Iraq, compared with 40% last month.
Ã¢€¢ 64% said it is very or somewhat likely a democratic form of government will be established in Iraq, up from 47% last month.
Ã¢€¢ 10% said more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq, down from 24% who said that before the elections.
Ã¢€¢ 50% said they approved of how Bush is handling Iraq, up from 42% last month; 48% said they disapproved, down from 56% last month.
Dowd said Bush is at the high end of his approval range, given “how polarized the country is.” But he said the elevation should last longer than the usual blip, because “people see President Bush’s presidency as so linked to Iraq.”
That the numbers are so volatile is an indication of how soft they are. Most Americans simply don’t have deeply held positions on most foreign policy issues, so they overreact to both good and bad news. Dowd is only right if the news out of Iraq continues to be generally positive.
Other coverage of the same poll:
The Iraqi elections that went “better than expected” produced a bump in President Bush’s approval rating, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Between January 14 and 16, 51 percent of survey participants expressed approval of Bush’s performance as president. But 57 percent of the 1,010 respondents during the February 4 thru 6 poll stated that they approved of how the he does his job.
Gallup doesn’t yet have a summary of the poll on its website, although it does have some interesting related surveys and/or analyses from recent days: