Bush Popularity Hits New Low in AP Poll

President Bush is down to 36 percent approval in the latest AP poll, his lowest yet in that survey. Further, “Bush’s job approval among Republicans plummeted from 82 percent in February to 74 percent” and only 43 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy and terrorism–his strongest issue.

AP political writer Ron Fournier points out that, “By comparison, Presidents Clinton and Reagan had public approval in the mid 60s at this stage of their second terms in office, while Eisenhower was close to 60 percent, according to Gallup polls. Nixon, who was increasingly tangled up in the Watergate scandal, was in the high 20s in early 1974.”

This poll is hardly an anomaly. Here’s the RealClear Politics summary of the major surveys:

Photo:  RealClear Politics Bush approval chart

Clearly, the perception that we are failing in Iraq and the unexpected uproar over the ports issue are major factors in this latest decline. There has been a string of mini scandals and bad news stories over the last several weeks, with very little positive as a counterweight.

Like Fournier, WaPo’s Peter Baker focuses on how this declining popularity will effect Bush’s relations with Congress.

“He has no political capital,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. “Slowly but surely it’s been unraveling. There’s been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the — I don’t want to call it disloyalty — the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress.”


[M]any Republicans are still rallying around the president. After signing the Patriot Act, Bush flew to Atlanta last night to headline the Georgia Republican Party’s Presidents’ Day dinner. A senior White House official, speaking not for attribution in order to discuss political strategy, expressed relief that on the biggest policy issues — Iraq above all — most congressional Republicans still back Bush. But many Republicans are less willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt as they once did. That became evident last year on domestic issues, when they abandoned his Social Security plan, criticized his handling of Hurricane Katrina and forced the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Just yesterday, the Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution that dropped Bush’s proposals for tax relief, Medicare cuts and expanded health savings accounts. A frustrated Bush pushed back earlier in the week, accusing Congress of shortchanging Katrina relief efforts.

Now the estrangement increasingly appears even on national security issues, where Republicans long deferred to the president. Recent rebukes run from the ports deal to a ban on torture to Patriot Act revisions forced on Bush in exchange for congressional approval. Partly in the name of national security, Republican leaders also seem poised to dismiss Bush’s proposal for a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants. “He cannot afford another breach related to national security, I can tell you that,” said Patrick Griffin, who was the chief congressional liaison for the Clinton White House. “That would be devastating.”

Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who produced a survey this week suggesting Bush’s public standing has been hurt by the port issue, said it may be too late to repair the schism between Bush and congressional Republicans. “I don’t know how you put the genie back in the bottle,” he said. “After five years of unwavering loyalty to the president, they’ve demonstrated they’ll break with the president to save their own skins.”

But, then, we always knew that. That’s what congressmen do, after all.

People seem to forget that this is not parliamentary government. While working in alliance with a president of one’s own party and against one from the opposition party is often tactically useful, we have separation of powers. Ultimately, Members are supposed to vote in the best interests of their constituents. To the extent that party unity works toward that end, either on the issue itself or by building capital for down the road, it holds. When breaking ranks is to their advantage, party loyalty is secondary.

Update: Steven Taylor presents a pretty compelling case that “it is ridiculous to place Bush’s political woes at the feet of the press.”

FILED UNDER: Congress, Supreme Court, Terrorism, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    Two words that should never be used to describe any part of U.S. policy: ‘Popularity’ and ‘polls’.

  2. MrGone says:

    Two words that can be used to describe President Bush: ‘Lame’ and ‘duck’.

  3. Stevely says:

    Last night at the gym one of the monitors was showing MSNBC. Who was on? Trent Lott and Hillary, united by their opposition to the ports deal. The Congressional Republicans are pathetic losers. Wonderful that a popularity poll has scared them into alienating one of our few Arab allies. Chasing polls instead of doing the right thing is going to put them right back into the minority.

  4. Herb says:

    It’s no wonder that Bush is at the low end in the polls, He has the Ultra Liberal Left Wing Press, The extremist Democrats and Now the Turncoat Republicrats to contend with. I don’t think there has ever been a US President that has had so many people stab him in the back as Bush has had.

    The entire thing still stems from the 2000 elections and the Ultra Hate Campaign that has been waged by the Left extremist who are still PO’d about losing the election.

    The only answer I have is to ask, Would you rather have Gore?

  5. Brian says:

    Umm, yes I would.

  6. SgtFluffy says:

    Push polls are the greatest, they say whatever you want them to say., Problem is about the 36% approval rating….How can it drop when last week he was at 34%???

  7. Rick DeMent says:

    Nothing would really be all that different under Gore except that we would not be in Iraq and all the blood and treasure would be pouring into Afghanistan.

    Also Gore would be every bit as hampered by the perception of a “stolen” election by Republicans. So that would be a wash.

    And if there was really truly an Ultra Liberal Left Wing Press then it is hard to imagine that Bush would have ever gotten the support to invade Iraq, but hey it’s a good way for the GOP to totally dodge responsibility for anything bad that happens.

  8. James Joyner says:

    SgtFluffy: That was a different poll (CBS’s). While push polling exists and polls in general are manipulable, there is just no doubt that Bush’s numbers are incredibly low right now. Indeed, the polling methods and the questions used have been identical in all the polls in the RCP table above for years now. Bush was at 90+ percent in all of them after 9/11.

    I would point out, too, that Bush is only at 39 percent in the FOX poll. What possible interest would FOX have in presenting Bush as being in trouble?

  9. LJD says:

    Would you rather have Gore?
    Umm, yes I would.

    O.K. you can have him.

    Nothing would really be all that different under Gore except that we would not be in Iraq and all the blood and treasure would be pouring into Afghanistan.

    Actually, a lot would be different. It is wishful thinking for you to think Gore would have as aggressively approached Afghanistan, after his track record of putting his finger to the air for every decision.

    My ‘crystal ball’ shows something more like a subsequent catastrophic attack on the U.S., Saddam’s continuing weapons programs and support for terrorists. The ME was/is a cesspool. ‘Containment’ was not an option. Continuing to dump money into oil-for-food was not an option. Our airmen continuing to dodge SAMs was not an option.

    And if there was really truly an Ultra Liberal Left Wing Press then it is hard to imagine that Bush would have ever gotten the support to invade Iraq

    Yeah, because the media supported it so much… I guess they should have just concealed his appeals to the U.N., Congress. Pre-war memory loss is something the left will have to overcome if they expect to be taken seriously by voters in future elections.

  10. McGehee says:

    I’m laughing into my hand at the memory of the stink some people raised over Bush’s initial reaction to news of 9/11, and imagining Gore in Bush’s shoes on that day.

    In particular I’m remembering Gore’s excuse for not knowing his fundraiser at the Buddhist temple was being planned as a fundraiser, because he drank too much iced tea and kept having to leave the room.

  11. DaveD says:

    Bush at times presents (at least to me) a severe logic disconnect to the average American. He is steadfast in mouthing his belief in Homeland Security and fighting terrorism where it breeds. At the same time his perceived lack of interest in restricting illegal immigration and the PR debacle of a Middle Eastern company running our ports seems (to the folks I talk to anyway) weaken his rhetoric of a strong commitment to American security. This administration should have learned by now that it is going to have to constantly dodge mud being thrown at it by the Democrats, liberal media and the very conservative wing of the Republican Party. Bush’s team stil seems to have a hard time being prepared and responding to these attacks. This has all ben brought up before elsewhere but it just seems so repetitive with this bunch. Frankly, Al Gore as a better alternative? With that thought at least we’ve had our moment of comedy for the day.

  12. carpeicthus says:

    Yeah, you tell him! That pansy Gore would NEVER have captured Osama bin Laden, because he would have been far too much of a sissy to put a substantial amount of troops on the ground where they mattered.

    Oh wait �

  13. Fersboo says:

    If the public would give President Bush an approval rating of 0%, would the press stop printing stories about his bad poll numbers? I hope I am with a majority of Americans on not giving a rat’s ass about his approval numbers, no matter how the press decides to calculate and report the damn numbers.

  14. Robert says:

    The Liberal media?

    What do you care what Mother Jones magazine writes?

  15. >The only answer I have is to ask, Would you
    >rather have Gore?

    It only underlines how much the Republican Party has declined in the last 6-10 years that ‘Better than Gore’ is considered an accomplishment.

  16. RPL says:

    Regarding the poll, I have a couple of questions:

    1) What was the percentage of democrats/republicans/independents that were polled, and what are their percentages as the general electorate?

    2) How were the questions worded? Depending on how a question is worded can have an effect on how it is answered.

    3) When was the poll conducted? Veteran pollsters know that by calling at certain times and on certain days the results can be skewed to help get a result that the pollster wants.

    While I don’t doubt that President Bush isn’t that popular with a lot of people, I don’t believe the numbers are as bad as the polling agencies would have everyone else believe.

    I used to do analytical work on Wall Street, and I understand statistics and probability, so I know how to massage data to get a conclusion that I want.

  17. LJD says:

    Due to the widely held notion (by sane people) that polls are garbage, let’s continue the free-for-all:

    I see some here are forgetting Gore’s action of late:

    Americaâ??s government committed â??terrible abusesâ?? against Arabs following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Gore told a Saudi audience at the Jiddah Economic Forum. Arabs had been â??indiscriminately rounded up,â?? said Gore, and held in â??unforgivableâ?? conditions.

    He would have been in Afghanistan begging for forgiveness, because the evil U.S. caused the death of 17 ‘innocent’ hijackers.

    Stormy- you’re a bit confused. It was Kerry supporters that ran with the ‘anybody but bush’ campaign. Nice attempt to flip the shortcomings of your own party, though.

  18. Robert says:


    I hear what you’re saying about polls stating anything you want them to.

    However, it still shocks me they can find as much as one-third of those polled who don’t think GWB is doing a terrible job.

    That is after what we know about Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Katrina, the environment, no WMDs, Administration stonewalling of the 911 Commission, warrantless spying, etc.

  19. >Stormy- youâ??re a bit confused. It was Kerry
    >supporters that ran with the â??anybody but bushâ??
    >campaign. Nice attempt to flip the shortcomings
    >of your own party, though.

    Funny how you assume I’m 1.) a Democrat and 2.) voted for Kerry just because I’m critical of The Great Leader.

    Since I’m being excommunicated though, could you at least get me off the GOP mailing lists? I’m getting tired of receiving newsletters where the GOP details how they’ve spent the last few months urinating on Goldwater and Reagan’s graves and then asks me for more money to fund another round of the quasi-socialist BS populism that masquerades for conservatism these days.

  20. Randy says:

    Better than Gore? I don’t think so. Would Gore have hired a bunch of out-to-lunch neo-cons to run his foreign policy? Nah. Back in the ’90s Gore was laughed out of the room by the Republican Senate when he proposed an increase in airport security. That’s competence and foresight, two things of which the Bush crew have zero.

    Anyway, it’s funny how whenever the light shines on these cockroaches, all his supporters can say is “Look over there at Gore. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

  21. RPL says:


    I’m a Bush supporter. Not a strong one, but based on what the opposition has shown, the alternative disgusts me. The hysterical ranting and raving is annoying, and garnered by forming opinions based on innuendo, rumor, a couple of facts, and a disregard for any contrary evidence. Based on that alone, I would support President Bush.

    Regarding the issues you have raised, the media has blown many of these things well out of proportion, or has deflected the blame away from where it belongs. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

  22. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Message to Brian. Have you paid attention to the rants by algore? Only a fool could wish he were President. Do you qualify? Remember, the fact that algore would have been President prevented the Republican Senate from removing Clinton from office.

  23. anjin-san says:

    Its almost fun to hear the squaking of Bush’s 6 remaining supporters…

  24. LJD says:

    Even if the lowest poll (AP) only surveyed 100 respondents, that’s 36 people. If you consider that there is a very small likelihood that they asked the same people in each, that’s 198. They didn’t ask me either- 199.
    You should have paid more attention in math class.

  25. Robert says:


    “forming opinions based on innuendo, rumor, a couple of facts, and a disregard for any contrary evidence.”

    Sounds like a review of the run-up to the Iraq War.

  26. anjin-san says:


    Actually, I was referring to you and 5 other Bush apologists who are on autowhine on this blog, not any sampling from the poll.

  27. masaccio says:

    As Bush’s numbers shrink, we will be able to guage the failure of education in our population: those favoring him will be the most incapable of learning from the facts in front of their noses.

  28. Seattle Slough says:

    Here’s the real question.

    When Bush’s approval rating settles in at around 30%, will you guys finally stop telling us how “outside the mainstream” we all are?

  29. floyd says:

    here’s bettin’ none of you were savvy enough to vote for the good Al[that’s alan keyes]!yes, i’m serious.

  30. floyd says:

    pppp…should be “was”

  31. Tracy says:

    I do not think all those numbers have any meaning for american voters as we saw in last election….