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Bush Approval: Trend turns down

Topics: 2006 , George Bush , The 2006 Race

currentBushApproval20061004small.png

More post-NIE, post-Woodward, post-Foley polls are out, suggesting that approval of President Bush has stopped its recent rise and has begun to turn down. Polls from Time, AP and Greenberg find small declines since the previous poll. A Pew poll finds no change. A GWU-Battleground poll is useless for comparison because the previous poll is from February.

The Time poll, taken 10/3-4/06 finds approval at 36%, disapproval at 57%. The AP poll from 10/2-4/06 has approval at 38%, disapproval at 59%. Pew's survey from 9/21-10/4/06 gets approval at 37%, disapproval at 53%. Greenberg/Democracy Corps was in the field 10/1-3/06 and has approval at 43%, disapproval at 53%. The GWU-Battleground poll is a bit stale, conducted 9/24-27/06. It found approval at 45% with disapproval at 53%.

The net effect of these polls on my estimate of approval is a drop of 0.4 points from the peak on September 20 to a current estimate of 40.2%. That peak, however, is also a revised estimate. Without the newer polling, the approval trend had reached 42.0%. The revised estimate of the peak is only 40.6, so recent polling has called the previous high into question. More data will be needed before we can precisely estimate either the September high point or the precise date when the turn in support took place.

While the AP, Pew and Time are generally below the trend estimate, their effect on the trend estimate is balanced by the typically high approval values from the Greenberg/Democracy Corps and GWU-Battleground polls. Likewise the "apples-to-apples" comparison of the plot for each polling organization increases the evidence that there is now a downturn in approval. Obviously we can't yet estimate how large or how sustained this turn may be.

The Pew poll is interesting because it was in the field before the Foley news broke, having collected 777 cases, and then collected an additional 726 cases after the scandal became known. Comparisons of "before" and "after" show an identical 13 point Democratic lead in the generic ballot question, suggesting no immediate impact of the Foley news on vote intentions.

Of course, as with so many Washington scandals, the story is as much about the aftermath of the revelations as the acts themselves. The "what did they know and when did they know it" drama now playing out around Speak Dennis Hastert seems likely to keep the story in the news for at least a few more days. One doesn't need polls to know this has been a bad week for the Republican party. How much that affects polling, and how long such an effect endures, remains to be seen.

For President Bush, the key question is whether he can resume his aggressive campaign efforts and can stay on his message of national security and terrorism. And if anyone is listening to his pitch at the moment. The challenge for Republicans is to change to subject. The challenge for Democrats is to take advantage of the October surprise effectively and to use Foley to advance a broader critique of the Republican congress. Stay tuned!

Note: This entry is cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

 

Comments
DemFromCT:

The bigotry of lowered expectations still suggests to the media that 40% is somehow "good". It's ain't and see Political Arithmetik for the historical comparisons. I'd suggest that it's bad and The bigotry of lowered expectations still suggests to the media that 40% is somehow "good". It's ain't and see Political Arithmetik for the historical comparisons. I'd suggest that it's bad and

We'll see where this goes.

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DemFromCT:

PS Since the Ds and indies are stable (relatively) as Prof Franklin showed in the "how low can he go?" series about partisan effects, it takes disaffected Rs to move the polls significantly lower. Otherwise there's a (roughly) 35-42% "current status" window with loose Rs peeling off and coming back. That's why the Foley scandal is important.

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DJSay:

It's probably because I'm so firm in my own opinion about Bush, but I just don't get how people's opinions can fluctuate on this. One week "yeah, Bush is an ok guy" and the next week "nope, don't like him" and on and on. It just seems so "flip-floppy". Pardon the pun.

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DemFromCT:

My theory:

Those are the lean-R indies, non-highly informed voters, if you will. They want a reason to support the President, don't like D's especially, and waver based on the latest news and/or speeches. They are not a large group and therefore represent a small window.

Maybe others can weigh in on what they think.

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Gary Kilbride:

I think DemFromCT is correct, the flip-flopping segment in terms of approval rating are probably right leaning independents and very soft Republicans. IMO, that type also makes up a considerable segment of the undecideds in individual polls, which is why I don't believe Democrats can count on a big split of undecideds this year. If you put a median partisanship level on undecideds in this climate, I've got to believe it's further right than normal. They aren't going to break hard left.

I wish there were a poll method to predict turnout level. Perhaps there is, maybe via scrutinizing old PEW numbers, but I'm not aware of it. A post on MyDD several days ago was very interesting since it revealed Republicans won big and exceeded expectation in '94 and '02 via superior turnout level, more than 36 million congressional votes each time. I did a bit more research and that did not apply when Democrats won big, like in '74 during the height of Watergate outrage. The GOP stayed home that year, leading to massive Democratic gains, but Democratic numbers were virtually identical to pre-Watergate in '70. There is no example of a superior Democratic turnout in a midterm year, at least not recent or that I could find. Nothing threatening the 36+ million. Since you've got Rove involved on the other side and sophisticated GOTV efforts, I'm continually skeptical of relying on Republicans staying home, even though that's a daily theme on political shows. I'd gladly allow Bush several more points in approval rating if I thought the Democratic side was inspired to storm the polls to win, instead of begging for a semi-forfeit. Anyone who followed the primaries this year realizes turnout was hardly impressive on either side, other than special cases like Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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