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Bush Approval: Trend at 32.6%

Topics: George Bush

1BushApproval2ndTermRough20071024.png

There have been several polls since my last update, and they have varied much more than usual. But the bottom line, with all the data, is a small decline in the trend estimate, and that well within the uncertainty of the trend.

The newly added polls are:

Fox: 10/23-24/07, Approve 35%, Disapprove 55%
LATimes/Bloomberg: 10/19-22/07, Approve 35%, Disapprove 60%
ARG: 10/18-21/07, Approve 25%, Disapprove 67%
CBS News: 10/12-16/07, Approve: 30, Disapprove 61%
CNN/ORC: 10/12-14/07, Approve 36%, Disapprove 61%
Zogby/Reuters: 10/10-14/07, Approve 25%, Disapprove 75%

That is quite a range from two at 25% to a top of 36%. Zogby and ARG are well below the trend estimate, while the two at 35% and one at 36% are only a bit above trend. (An older NPR poll at 38% is well above expectations, but as I explained in an earlier post this has something to do with the likely voter sample NPR favors, compared to the adult samples of most approval polls.)

2LastSixPolls20071024.png

If we look at the residuals, NPR looks like a high outlier and Harris a low one. But Zogby/Reuters and ARG are even more extreme low outliers. Zogby uses the same 4 point job rating measure that Harris uses, so that partially explains their low value (a persistent question wording effect) but as the plot makes clear, the Zogby reading is even lower than we'd expect from that. The ARG reading is also extremely low, at the same 25% approval rating, and the points and labels are overwritten by each other.

3BushResiduals20071024.png

The curiosity is why two (three with Harris) outliers? Did opinion change and these caught it early? Apparently not, judging by other recent polls that are at or even a bit higher than the trend estimate of 32.6%.

In general I think it is a bad idea to seek a substantive explanation for outliers. The most reasonable story is simply "random variation" and we should leave it at that. There ARE some systematic elements, such as the question wording variation or sampling issues I pointed out, but I'm not inclined to say more. To do so becomes a post hoc search for what are most likely statistical phantoms. (Though when history keeps repeating itself we might look into house effects for a systematic effect, possibly due to question wording, sampling, or treatment of don't know responses.)

The bottom line is approval may have shifted down a tad, from 33.0% to 32.6%. BUT, one should consider the gray region around the trend line below. This gives you a good idea of the uncertainty in the trend estimate itself, after squeezing out as much random variation in the polls as possible (at least until next week! Stay tuned for that!). Clearly the change of .4 percentage points is not a clear indication of movement in approval. In fact, given the wide range of current polling, we have an unusually wide uncertainty about where approval actually is at the moment, with 32.6% being our best estimate, but an uncertain one.

We are in a period of relative stability in President Bush's approval rating but considerable polling variation. Waiting for the next "thing" to happen.

4BootApproval20071024.png

5Sentitivity2ndTerm20071024.png

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

 

Comments
Spence:

I guess me wishful thinking can't make the numbers lower then they are... though I would point out that 25% is a new low for Bush, and is tickling at the all-time Presidential approval low of 24% that Truman got in one Gallup poll (an outlier as well?). Which BTW also matches the 24% that Adolph Hitler polled in West Berlin. In 1948.
Also last week, there was a poll released showing that 23% of Americans believe in U.F.O.s.

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Anonymous:

The reuters press release says Bush's approval was 24%.

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN1624620720071017

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The Reuters/Zogby result is a bit of a puzzle. The news story linked by anonymous above is indeed 24%. But the Reuters/Zogby Index page at Reuters has it at 25%, as does PollingReport.com.

http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/rzi

Zogby does not have the poll results posted on their site (that I could find, at least). I'm trying to track down this number and see what the real story is.

One point either way won't have much impact on the trend, but it would be nice to know the right number.

It would also be nice if Reuters would post their results in a full disclosure of the poll and make an archive of past results available. If they do that, I haven't found it.

Charles

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This is really bizaarre. The spacing of the red dots of recent polls in the approval residuals chart looks like the offensive line of a three-wide-receiver "Hail Mary" formation.

While a similarly wide spread between extremes appears to have occured very early this year, there was a lot more clumping in the middle, and ditto the situation in early 2006.

Of course, this is way statistics works. Strange things do happen. You just have to wait long enough.

But you're still entitled to scratch your head when they do. Otherwise, life would be just too boring.

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