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Mr. Unpopularity (Continued)

Yesterday, I summarized the key results from the new Hotline/Westhill Partners poll. But that's not all the bad news for Bush. Not by a long shot.

Let's take a quick look at the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Among the poll's main findings:

1. On the standard right direction/wrong track question, the poll finds only 34 percent saying right direction and 51 percent saying wrong track. That's the worst reading in this poll for Bush's entire administration, with the lone exception of last May.

2. Bush's overall approval rating is 48 percent approve/46 percent disapprove, his worst showing since his re-election last November. His economic approval rating is ow 41/53, down from 46/50 in February and tied with last May for the worst rating of his administration. And his foreign policy rating is now 42/50, the absolute worst showing of his administration.

3. On governance issues, by 63-30, the public says Democrats in Congress provide a balance so Republicans don't go too far, rather than work in a bipartisan way to pass Bush's legislative priorities. By 50-40, the public says the Senate should maintain, not eliminate,the filibuster. And, by 54-35, the public says the federal government should be less active, not more active, on social and moral issues facing the country.

4. On tax cuts, 54 percent now now say that federal tax cuts have not been worth it, because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in goverment programs, compared to just 38 percent who say the tax cuts have been worth it, because they strengthened the economy and allowed Americans to keep more of their own money.

5. On Social Security, the public now thinks, by 55-35, that it's "a bad idea to change the Social Security system to allow workers to invest their Social Security contributions in the stock market", the most negative sounding yet in this poll. And, as before, those who think it's a bad idea are mostly not open to changing their minds on this issue, while those who think it's a good idea are open to changing their mind by more than 2:1.

In addition, the poll asked:

Please tell me which of the following approaches to dealing with Social Security you would prefer––(A) making some adjustments but leaving the Social Security system basically as is and running the risk that the system will fall short of money as more people retire and become eligible for benefits, OR (B) changing the Social Security system by allowing people to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private accounts--like I-R-A's or 401k's--and running the risk that some people will lose money in their private accounts due to drops in the stock market?

and found a 48-40 plurality in favor of leaving the Social Security system basically as is.

6. The poll also found that Bush's policies are starting to split the Republican base. As John Harwood's article in the Wall Street Journal put it:

Almost three months into President Bush's second term, a raft of economic and social issues -- Social Security, immigration, gay marriage and the recent national debate over Terri Schiavo -- is splintering the Republican base.

After winning re-election on the strength of support from nine in 10 Republican voters, the president is seeing significant chunks of that base balk at major initiatives, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows. One-third of Republicans say Democrats in Congress should prevent Mr. Bush and party leaders from "going too far in pushing their agenda," and 41% oppose eliminating filibusters against Mr. Bush's judicial nominees -- the "nuclear option" that Senate Republican leaders are considering.

The Schiavo case has opened another rift. Though Mr. Bush and Republican congressional leaders acted to maximize the opportunity for reinserting Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, 39% of Republicans said removing the tube was "the right thing to do," while 48% said it was wrong. About 18% of Republicans say they lost respect for Mr. Bush on the issue and 41% lost respect for Congress....

On his centerpiece initiative of Social Security, for instance, 32% of Republicans call it "a bad idea" to let workers invest payroll taxes in the stock markets.

Despite Mr. Bush's cross-country tour to sell his plan, that proportion has held steady since January, while resistance among Democrats and senior citizens has driven overall opposition to 55% from the 50% recorded on the eve of his second inauguration....

On judicial nominations -- a cause of contention between the White House and Democratic leaders -- resistance among rank-and-file Republicans is even higher. Four in 10 say the option of filibusters should be preserved.

On Mr. Bush's proposal to grant legal status to some illegal immigrants already in the U.S., Republicans are opposed by 50%-48% -- almost matching the 54%-42% opposition among Democrats. About 55% of independents oppose Mr. Bush's plan, while 38% favor it.

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say Congress shouldn't pass legislation affecting families in cases such as Ms. Schiavo's, though some Republicans on Capitol Hill aim to do just that. By 50%-37%, Republicans say the federal government should be "less active" on social and moral issues; on gay marriage Republicans split evenly, with 48% saying Congress should pass legislation and 47% saying it shouldn't.

The latest Ipsos/AP poll underscores Bush's current poor standing. Right direction/wrong track is at a very unimpressive 38/56 and Bush's overall approval rating is down to 44 percent approve/54 percent disapprove, the worst ever in this poll. And his economic approval rating is down to 42/54, also his worst ever.

His other approval ratings in this poll are equally unimpressive. His rating on Social Security is 36/58 (his worst ever), his rating on handling domestic issues is 38/58 (also his worst ever), his rating on Iraq is 43/56 and even his rating on "foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism" is now below 50 percent (at 49/49).

Not so good! Bush is now confronted with a country where Democrats hate him, independents are severely critical and even Republicans are starting to split over many of his policies. Sounds like an opening for the Democrats.

In future posts, I will take up how Democrats might make the most of this opportunity.