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The So-Called Bush Bounce

Is Bush bouncing back? You’d think so, from coverage in the media, including today’s story in The Washington Post, “President Rallying Support in Polls”. But there are several problems with this story line.

First, Is it really a “bounce” or “rally”? That terminology implies his poll ratings are going up, but the evidence on this is mixed. Only the Gallup poll has an actual increase in Bush’s job approval rating, from 50 percent on 9/19-21 to 55 percent on 10/6-8 and 56 percent on 10/10-12.

Other polls tell a different story. The Newsweek poll has Bush’s approval rating declining from 52 percent on 9/25-26 to 51 percent on 10/9-10. Note that the latter Newsweek poll was taken exactly in between Gallup’s two polls that had Bush at 55 and 56 percent approval. The Ipsos/Cook Political Report poll also has Bush’s approval rating declining from 55 percent on 9/16-18 to 51 percent on 10/7-9. And, again, the dates of the later Ipsos poll are close to those of the two later Gallup polls, especially the first one.

And here’s the kicker. The Washington Post’s own poll (remember the headline about Bush “rallying support”?) has Bush’s approval rating declining from 58 percent on 9/10-13 to 54 percent on 9/30 to 53 percent on 10/10-13. And, once more, the dates of the later Post poll are close to the dates (actually a little later) than the dates of the Gallup polls.

So what’s going on? The Post’s own data show a slowdown in Bush’s rate of decline, which you could stretch into a temporary stabilization of Bush’s approval rating, if you chose to treat the 54 percent and 53 percent readings as about the same. But “rally” or “bounce”? That’s really pushing it.

And speaking of “pushing it”, DR has his suspicions that what’s really going on is the Bushies got a few good readings from the Gallup folks and went into spin overdrive pushing their story that the president has bounced back. Check out the quotes and cites in the Post story about Bush’s “rally”: (1) unnamed Bush aides; (2) Bush himself; (3) Ken Mehlman, Bush-Cheney campaign manager; (4) Rep. Deborah Price, chairman of the House Republican Conference; (5) Matthew Dowd, the RNC pollster; and (6) Nicolle Devenish, the Bush-Cheney campaign’s communications director. Only at the end of the article do we finally get a critical quote from a Democrat, Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Chalk one up for the Bush propaganda machine--especially since they managed to make headway with the “Bush bounce” storyline when most other data from these polls, including the Gallup polls, suggest intensifying political problems for the GOP. Consider these data from Gallup.

While Gallup measured Bush’s approval rating as going up, they also measured Bush’s approval ratings on the economy (42 percent approval/55 percent disapproval), on foreign affairs (49 percent approval/49 percent disapproval) and on the situation with Iraq (47 percent approval/50 percent disapproval) as the worst of his presidency. His favorability rating, while higher at 60 percent, is also the lowest of his presidency.

The Gallup data also show just 22 percent rating the economy as good or excellent, one of the worst rating of his presidency, and only 42 percent saying the situation in Iraq is going well, the lowest level of the year. Finally, sentiment has become more negative about whether Congress should authorize the additional $87 billion for Iraq and the war on terror, moving from 51 percent against/46 percent for to 57 percent against/41 percent for.

In the Newsweek poll, Bush’s approval ratings on foreign policy are 45 percent, on Iraq, 44 percent, on taxes, 43 percent, on the environment, 43 percent, on the economy, 38 percent and on health care, 34 percent. And on whether Bush should be re-elected or not, 44 percent say they would vote to re-elect him, but 50 percent would not–worse than where Bush was two weeks ago before the beginning of this so-called bounce.

The Newsweek poll also finds that, at this point, more Americans (37 percent) think the US action against Iraq will increase the risk that large numbers of Americans will be killed or injured in future terror attacks, than believe (25 percent) that risk will decrease (30 percent say the Iraq action will make no difference). Moreover, by 49 percent to 39 percent, the public now thinks the administration misinterpreted or misanalyzed intelligence reports about Iraq’s WMDs and, for the first time, as many Americans now believe the administration purposely misled the public about Iraq’s WMDs to build support for war as believe they did not.

The Post poll finds Bush doing worse than a month ago in terms of support for his re-election. More (47 percent) say they would vote for the Democratic nominee than say they would vote for Bush (46 percent). The number who say the war in Iraq was worth fighting also fell 7 points to 54 percent in the same time period and the number who say the number of military casualties in Iraq is unacceptable rose 4 points to 59 percent, the highest level since the war began.

So....if this is what it looks like when Bush is “bouncing back”, it could be pretty grim for the GOP when he starts sinking again.

Comments

Has anyone seen a poll that shows that increasing number of Americans doubt the legitimacy of Bush's 2000 election? I saw reference to such a poll in an article on Salon magazine's website, but it did not have a link to the poll. Thanks.


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DATE: 01/21/2004 05:37:56 PM
Self-imposed ignorance should disgust everyone.