Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll tracks with other recent surveys showing President Bush at the lowest public approval of his presidency. The internals are especially troubling, showing that a majority has doubts about his integrity.
Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low (WaPo, A1)
For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.
On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office — the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.
Virtually the only possible bright spot for Bush in the survey was generally favorable, if not quite enthusiastic, early reaction to his latest Supreme Court nominee, Samuel A. Alito Jr. Half of Americans say Alito should be confirmed by the Senate, and less than a third view him as too conservative, the poll found.
Overall, the survey underscores how several pillars of Bush’s presidency have begun to crumble under the combined weight of events and White House mistakes. Bush’s approval ratings have been in decline for months, but on issues of personal trust, honesty and values, Bush has suffered some of his most notable declines. Moreover, Bush has always retained majority support on his handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism — until now, when 51 percent have registered disapproval.
The dissatisfaction with Bush flows in part out of broad concerns about the overall direction of the country. Nearly 7 in 10 — 68 percent — believe the country is seriously off course, while only 30 percent are optimistic, the lowest level in more than nine years. Only 3 in 10 express high levels of confidence in Bush, while half say they have little or no confidence in this administration. Just 35 percent of those surveyed rated the economy as either excellent or good, with 65 percent describing it as not so good or poor. Although the government reported last week that gross domestic product rose 3.8 percent in the last quarter, despite the effects of Hurricane Katrina, 29 percent of those surveyed said they regard the economy as poor, the highest recorded during Bush’s presidency.
Attitudes toward Bush are sharply polarized by party, as they have been throughout his presidency. Almost 8 in 10 — 78 percent — of Republicans support the president, while just 11 percent of Democrats rate him positively. Republicans long have been the key to Bush’s overall strength, but Bush has suffered some defections since the beginning of the year, when 91 percent approved of the way he was handling his job.
Among independents, Bush’s approval has plummeted since the beginning of the year. In the latest poll, 33 percent of independents approved of his performance, while 66 percent disapproved. In January, independents were evenly divided, with 49 percent approving and an equal percentage disapproving.
The intensity of Bush’s support has changed since his reelection a year ago, with opponents deepening their hostility toward the administration. In the latest survey, 47 percent said they strongly disapprove of the way he was performing in office, compared with 35 percent who expressed strong disapproval in January. At the same time, the percentage who say they strongly approve of his performance has fallen from 33 percent last January to 20 percent today.
While presidents Reagan and Clinton both recovered from similarly low numbers to reclaim high levels of popularity, Bush faces serious obstacles. Most notably, the Iraq War is quite unpopular and likely to be with us for some time to come.
The Alito pick was a good step in the direction of regaining public confidence. A shakeup of his cabinet, including firing Karl Rove, could also help. There’s no sign, though, that this is on the agenda.