2006 June 21 Wednesday
Details On Bush Approval Decline

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post goes over a recent Pew poll on George W. Bush approval ratings and finds interesting facts about the decline of approval among elements of the Republican base.

The president's job-approval rating has dropped in every region of the country, level of income, education level, and age group, but the slippage is particularly pronounced among self-identified moderate Republicans. Eighty-one percent of this group gave the president positive marks in December, while just 56 percent did the same in May -- a precipitous 25-point decline that outpaced the 20-point drop (89 percent in December '04, 69 percent now) among Republicans overall.

The numbers are less stark when it comes to President Bush's conservative base, but perhaps even more worrisome for Republicans hoping to hold the House and Senate in the fall. The president's job approval among self-identifying conservatives has slipped from 93 percent in December 2004 to 78 percent in May. But Courtney Kennedy and Michael Dimock, authors of Pew's own analysis, pointed out that the smaller dropoff is somewhat misleading.

"There are far more conservatives than moderates in the GOP; as many as two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives," the duo wrote. "Translated into real numbers, just as many conservative Republicans as moderate and liberal Republicans have grown frustrated with the president's leadership over the past year and a half."

As evidence of the erosion in what has long been considered Bush's base, take a look at his job-approval numbers among white evangelical protestants. In December 2004, 77 percent of this voting bloc approved of how the president was handling his job; the numbers was down to just 55 percent in May. Among Southern voters, Bush's job approval has dropped twenty points (56 percent in December 2004, 36 percent in May 2006); among those who attend church weekly or more often it has slipped 17 (58 percent to 41 percent.)

The drop in approval among white evangelical protestants has been greater than the drop among self-identified conservatives. I suspect a substantial portion of the latter support Bush because the liberals are highly critical of Bush.

Bush's approval has bounced back a bit since May 2006.

President George W. Bush's job approval rating is at 37 percent, up 1 percentage point, in a NBC News and the Wall Street Journal poll taken after the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of a new government in Iraq.

The new government in Iraq might be able to bribe some Sunnis into switching into an alliance with the government. It all might depend on how much oil money Ahmad Chalabi makes available for bribery of Sunni tribes. Perhaps Bush ought to send some of Chalabi's old neocon friends to Iraq to try to find ways to get Chalabi to funnel oil money toward bribing Sunnis.

Bush used the killing of Zarqawi in Iraq to promote the myth that the United States is making progress in Iraq.

But the president last week decided to keep Iraq on the front pages by convening a meeting of his senior intelligence and military advisers at Camp David and then sneaking out of the presidential retreat for a secret trip to Baghdad. To make sure the press stayed on Iraq, he invited reporters to the Rose Garden to fire questions at him -- all but a few were on the war.

The gambit paid off. A USA Today-Gallup poll taken from June 9 to 11 found that 48 percent of Americans think the U.S. will probably or definitely win the Iraq war, up from 39 percent in April. The poll showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 38 percent, up from 31 percent in May.

I do not see how his bounce from the Zarqawi killing can last. Where in Iraq can the US military achieve some goal that would provide opportunity for Bush's people to spin it as a great success? Here's a long shot: The Bush White House could build up the images of some other insurgency leaders as the new bad guys. Then those leaders could be hunted down and killed with a benefit in the sphere of domestic US public approval.

A successful terrorist attack in the United States is the only scenario I can see that would substantially reverse Bush's approval ratings. People rally around their leaders when they feel threatened. So Bush would get a really big bounce from a terrorist attack.

The news from Iraq will remain bad overall. If you want to understand what is really happening in Iraq then the transcript of a recent US embassy cable from Baghdad is a great place to start. Also see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq. Given that Iraq's insurgency can't be subdued with a small military force the continuing bad news will eventually make the Zarqawi killing fade in the public's memory (along with Saddam's capture and the killings of Saddam's sons) and the bad news will drive down Bush's approval ratings once again.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 June 21 07:37 PM  Politics American Presidency

John S Bolton said at June 22, 2006 1:45 AM:

Iraq having an underlying tendency to ungovernability, absent bloodthirsty despotism, on account of cousin marriage, is an interesting point.
The 8-03 issue of Discover has a map showing 'global inbreeding'. It looks like all the Moslem countries have more than 20% 2nd cousin or closer, marriage.
This compares to Europe, with almost all at 1% or less, marriages of this type.
Spain and Latin America are at 1-10%.
European countries actually try to suppress patriotic nationalism, in many cases.
None of them seem to worry that loyalty to nation could be hard to build.
India is an exception, being near the threshold of 20%, and where the overall correlation might be taken as predicting that over 10% second cousin or closer breeding, means ungovernability by democratic methods.

John S Bolton said at June 22, 2006 1:59 AM:

Another factor tending to nix peacable nation-building in Iraq and similar countries, is that there is no connection between production and reward, in terms of the distribution of oil revenues.
There is a competition for a share of the proceeds of nationalized assets' production, which is political; and it is one in which no one has a really superior claim on a share of that production.
Unreason is favored then, where those with the greatest effrontery and capacity for devilish intrigue, terror and atrocities, set the standards of distribution of the loot.

Mark said at June 22, 2006 8:28 PM:

Hey, if you are for idiotic nation building, amazing, obscene, reckless, massive fiscal deficits, and, well, you think there is a massive shortage of stupid people in the US, particularly Mexicans, then, well, what's not to like about Dubya.

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