Bush Numbers Up After Terrorism Push
Gallup’s Frank Newport looks at a new poll released by his firm showing President Bush with his highest approval numbers in a year and concludes that the administration’s new campaign on the war against terror is having its desired effect.
The Bush administration has spent the last several weeks carrying out a political strategy designed to stress the reality of the threat of terrorism in the United States today, while concomitantly emphasizing the GOP’s perceived superiority in handling terrorism. The administration’s strategy has also included a continued emphasis on the connection between the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
New USA Today/Gallup poll data provide suggestive evidence that this strategy may be having an effect. President George W. Bush’s job approval rating has risen to its highest level in about a year, 44%. Americans are more positive about the war on terror and voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush on terrorism rather than one who opposes him. By a slight margin, Americans tend to think that the country will be safer from terrorism if the GOP retains control of the House, rather than if the Democrats take control. And voters are now as likely to say that the war in Iraq is a part of the war on terror as say it is not.
Here are the Gallup numbers on presidential approval for the past year:
While still abysmal–one prefers to have approval numbers higher than disapproval numbers, at the very least–the numbers are definitely moving in the right direction. And many of the internals that Newport points to do indicate that terrorism is the key issue and one that favors Republicans. This chart, in particular, is interesting:
On the other hand, the plurality of those surveyed think it would make no difference which was in control and the Democrats have a much bigger advantage on Iraq than the Republicans do on terrorism:
My guess is that, while the terrorism push has helped–if nothing else, it has gotten Bush into the public eye on his own terms–other factors are important as well. Perhaps most imortant among them: Falling gasoline prices. As I’ve pointed out before, there is an uncanny correlation between Bush’s approval ratings and the price of gas at the pump.
Note: As always with Gallup numbers, realize that these are merely “adults” rather than likely voters. They’re not necessarily indicative of what’s going to happen in November but, since they are consistent, they’re at least interesting for longer term trend analysis.
UPDATE: Commenter Tano points to an interesting discussion/debunking of the “Pollkatz Hypothesis” (the gas price-Bush approval correlation) by Sean at MyElectionAnalysis. While I understand the basic points about scaling, I don’t know enugh to have a firm opinion as to what is a “proper” scale. More persuasive, though, is his use of regression analysis to show that the power of the gas price variable is relatively weak when controlling for other likely explanations.
As I note in the comments section, though, one would expect there to be a lag effect between price fluctuations and (hypothetically) resultant ratings changes since, presumably, people aren’t changing their view in anticipation of price changes but in reaction to them. It’s unclear whether this was factored into the analysis.