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Public Resoundingly Rejects Bush and His Policies

by Ruy Teixeira

Things have not been going so well for George W. Bush lately. For example, every poll of the general public in October has his approval rating under 40 percent. Of all these polls, the latest Pew Research poll has the most useful data for understanding why Bush and the GOP have entered such perilous political territory. These data show that the public has, pretty much across the board, come to resoundingly negative judgements on Bush’s policies, decisions and approaches to governing. These judgements leave the Bush administration and GOP with little to no political capital to spend and no obvious way of recouping that capital absent sudden–and improbable--U-turns on the economy, Iraq, etc.

Consider these data from the Pew poll:

1. A plurality (41-26) now believes Bush will, in the long run, be an unsuccessful, rather than successful, president.

2. A plurality (41-21) now believes Bush has made “politics and the way government works in Washington” worse, not better.

3. When asked about Bush’s policies and decisions in 11 specific areas, the public only has a plurality positive judgement in one area (America’s national security), where 47 percent believe his policies have made things better and 30 percent believe they’ve made things worse. After that, Bush’s best area is “morality in America”, where just 25 percent believe he’s made things better, compared to 35 percent who believe he’s made things worse. That’s followed by public education (24 percent better/32 percent worse), the tax system (22/40), America’s relation with its allies (22/47), America’s economy (19/57), race relations (16/29), health care in America (16/43), the Social Security system (12/40), the gap between rich and poor (8/57) and the federal budget deficit (6/66).

4. Not surprisingly, given these harsh judgements, the public overwhelmingly says that they want the next president to offer “different policies and programs” than those of the Bush administration (69 percent), rather than similar policies and programs (25 percent).

5. Also not surprisingly, these negative views have hurt the image of the Republican party relative to the Democratic party. The public favors the Democrats over the Republicans on “concerned with the needs and interests of the disadvantaged” (+39), “concerned with the needs of people like me” (+22), “can bring about the kinds of changes the country needs” (+16), “governs in an honest and ethical way” (+10) and “able to manage the federal government well” (+6). The Republicans get the nod over the Democrats in only two areas and these are more liabilities than assets. By 37 points, the public says the GOP is the party “concerned with the needs and interests of business and other powerful groups” and by 38 points they say the Republicans are the party “concerned with the needs and interests of business”.

In addition, the poll provides ample documentation of the “Indycrat” phenomenom I wrote about last week–that is, the close alignment of independents’ and Democrats’ views and the great distance of both from the views of GOP identifiers. As just a few examples of many, on whether Bush has made politics and government in Washington better, independents are only 9 points away from Democrats, but 40 points away from Republicans; on whether Bush will have a successful presidency, independents are 13 points away from Democrats, but 43 points away from Republicans; and on whether a new president should offer different policies than those of the Bush administration, independents are a modest 15 points from Democrats’ views, but a whopping 63 points from Republicans’ views. Increasingly, it’s looking like one big political party–the Indycrats–against a beleaguered GOP minority.

The poll also finds some rather astonishing evidence of fading support among one of the GOP’s key demographics: white men. In this poll, just 44 percent of this group approves of Bush’s job performance, by 41-35, they think Bush will have an unsuccessful presidency and by an amazing 67-27, they want the next administration to have different policies than the Bush administration.

And this is the same group that voted 61-38 to give Bush a second term! Perhaps there’s a bit of buyer’s remorse setting in.....