Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Man in the Basement

[[P O L L S]] * Critics who delight in citing parallels between Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush, based in part on both men’s reflexive obfuscations, their zealous destruction of opponents, and their consuming administration scandals, might soon be able to add yet another equivalent to their lists. The latest Harris Interactive poll finds the prez with a 65 percent job disapproval rating. That’s yet another new high for his presidency, and just one percentage point shy of Nixon’s disapproval extreme, in August 1974--the same month he resigned under threat of impeachment.*

This Harris survey shows only 34 percent of respondents approving of Bush’s performance in the Oval Office--down from a positive rating of 88 percent shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and also lower than the 40 percent rating he had in August of this year, just before Hurricane Katrina clobbered the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. At this same stage in their presidencies, Lyndon Johnson enjoyed a 67 percent positive rating, Ronald Reagan counted 66 percent approval, and Bill Clinton was seeing a low point of 58 percent. Among two-term U.S. presidents of the last half-century, only Nixon was less popular than Bush is today, scoring a dismal 29 percent approval rating at this point in his fifth year.

In its report on this poll, the conservative-friendly Wall Street Journal remarks that it also shows Democrats with one of their “biggest dips in approval. ... [O]nly a quarter of Americans polled give Democrats a positive rating in the latest poll, compared with 31 percent in August, while Republicans’ approval ratings fell to 27 percent from 32 percent.” As Chris Bowers at MyDD points out, such statistics are often used to make the case “that while Republicans are faltering, voters are not turning to Democrats.” But he calls that a myth, and goes on in a must-read post to explain that Democrats now hold sizable leads in generic ballot polls as well as leaked internal Republican polls. Independent voters, currently more likely to side with Dems than with the GOP, may account for a good chunk of this disparity.

Two other opinion samplings also find Bush down in the ratings dumps. A 50-state SurveyUSA poll, conducted in the wake of his speech last Friday attacking Democrats for undercutting U.S. troops in Iraq by voicing opposition to the continuing, bloody war there, shows that only 37 percent of Americans support the prez’s actions in office, down one point from a month ago. That same survey finds Bush’s approval rating at 50 percent or above in just four U.S. states--Idaho, Mississippi, Utah, and Wyoming--while 26 others rate his job performance at 40 percent or below. (He rates lowest, at 26 percent, in Rhode Island.) Meanwhile, a newly released Diageo/Hotline poll discovers “cracks in the GOP foundation” of support for the prez. Just 37 percent of self-identifying Republicans say they approve of the job Bush is doing, down from 59 percent in March 2005. And 60 percent of respondents say that the United States is on the wrong track; 41 percent of Republicans agree.

* Since the 1930s, only Harry Truman notched a higher presidential negative rating than Nixon: 67 percent. That was at the beginning of 1952, months after Truman had dismissed controversial General Douglas MacArthur’s as the commander of U.S. forces in the Korean War, and around the same time that Truman began courting Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson as his Democratic successor.

THE DYSFUNCTIONAL PRESIDENCY: “President Bush is approaching the LBJ- range where the American people do not trust his each and every word,” remarks the Bull Moose blog. “It does not matter what he says--they are turning him off. While in purely partisan terms that is good news for the Democrats, it is ominous for the nation.” Read on.

READ MORE:Earth to the 36 Percent,” by Mike Shannon (The Smirking Chimp); “Cheney Vows to Throw Critics’ Words Back at Them. Is He Crazy or Just Stupid?” by John Aravosis (AMERICAblog); “Hawkish Cheney Renews Attack, But Attracts Only Flak,” by David Charter (London Times); “Dick Cheney, Who Outright Lied to Justify Invading Iraq, Now Attacks Democrats for Calling Him on His Lies,” by John Aravosis (AMERICAblog).

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