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Bush Continues to Weaken

The latest ARG poll has Bush’s overall approval rating at 42 percent, joining several recent polls that have had his approval rating that low. A sub-40 approval rating from some public poll seems likely to appear fairly soon.

Some have argued, however, that a sub-40 Bush approval rating is unlikely to appear because his high support among Republican identifiers makes it difficult for his approval rating to drop much more that it already has. I don’t believe that is the case.

To begin with, thought it depends on the poll, there is still considerable room for Bush approval to fall among independents. In the latest CBS News poll, his approval rating among independents is 37 percent. Given that his approval rating in that poll was 42 percent, if his approval were to fall to around 30 percent among independents and all else remained equal,, his overall approval rating would fall to below 40 percent.

Just as important, the assumption that Bush’s approval rating among Republicans will remain steady is unwarranted. For example, if you compare his rating by party ID in the latest CBS poll to his rating by party ID in the late February CBS poll, his approval has fallen from just over 90 percent to 84 percent, a decline of 7 ponts. That’s almost as much as the analagous decline among Democrats (8 points) and actually more than the decline among independents (5 points).

You see a similar pattern in a number of other polls. Bush’s approval rating among Republicans has fallen in recent months from around 90 percent to around 85 percent. It is entirely possible it will decline further if the difficulties of the Bush administration continue to deepen. Certainly, there is no sound reason to suppose Republican identifiers will somehow be immune from overall political trends.

The ARG poll provides additional abundant evidence of Bush’s weakness, especially in the economic realm. Bush’s economic approval rating is down to 37 percent with 59 percent disapproval, his worst rating ever.in this poll. Just 22 percent think the economy is getting better and 58 percent believe it is getting worse. Only 26 percent believe the national economy will be better in a year, compared to 50 percent who believe it will be worse.

In terms of rating the national economy today, 63 percent say it is bad, very bad or terrible, compared to 35 percent who say it is excellent, very good or good. Moreover, for the first time since considerably before the 2004 election, about as many say the economy is in a recession (44 percent) as say it isn’t (45 percent).

As for household financial situation, more (52 percent) see their personal situation as bad to terrible than see it as excellent to good (46 percent). And exactly half say their personal situation is getting worse, while only 17 percent say it is getting better. Nor are people more positive about the future: looking ahead a year, essentially identical proportions expect their situation to get worse or better.

How about Iraq? Not much help there. According to a new Ipsos-AP poll, a majority of the public (53 percent) now believes that the US made a mistake going to war there in March of 2003, compared to 42 percent who think we made the right decision. And, while the public does not favor immediate withdrawal (just 37 percent say they do in the Ipsos-AP poll), a new Harris poll finds a strong 63-33 majority favoring the more modest goal of "bringing most of our troops in the next year", rather than "keeping a large number of US troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there".

More generally, a new Zogby poll finds Bush languishing in net negative job approval territory in each and every area tested by the poll: overall (44 percent positive, 56 percent negative, for a -12 net); the war on terrorism (49, -1); the war in Iraq (39, -22); taxes (36, -26); foreign policy (36, -25); jobs and the economy (35, -30); education (33, -31); environment (30, -36); and Social Security and Medicare (27, -42).

OK, Bush is tanking....but how much is that likely to hurt the GOP in 2006? That's still a long way away, but here's something to think about. The new EMILY's List report on a large-scale survey by Garin-Hart-Yang and The Feldman Group points out that working class (non-college-educated) white women (whom I have maintained was the key group that swung to Bush and the GOP in the 2004 election) now support the Democrats by 18 points in a prospective 2006 Congressional matchup. In 2004, this same group supported Bush by 18 points and House GOP candidates by 15 points.

Wow. That's a huge swing. If anything like this holds up in 2006, the Republicans are in big trouble.