WSJ/NBC: 33% Rate Bush Honest and Straightforward
As the inimitable John Harwood reports for The Wall Street Journal, President Bush’s approval rating has continued to slide even through this week.
The CIA leak investigation has deepened President George W. Bush’s political problems, driving his approval rating to its lowest-ever point in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Just 38% of Americans now approve Bush’s job performance, while 57% disapprove, the poll shows. The telephone survey of 1,003 adults, conducted Nov. 4-7, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.
The CIA leak case, in which former vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby was recently indicted on felony charges, has made a strong impression on the public. Fully 79% of respondents call the case “a serious matter.” Americans now view Vice President Dick Cheney negatively 49%-27%, his worst-ever showing and a significant deterioration since January.
The case, by compounding doubts about the administration’s pre-war claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, appears to have also taken a toll on public regard for Bush’s credibility. Some 33% now give the president high marks for “being honest and straightforward,” while 47% rate him poorly on that score. In January, he was rated positively on this score by 50%-36%
NBC News’ Mark Murray offers more information and conclusions from the survey.
With the midterms a year away, these numbers could spell trouble for the GOP. â€œThese are not good times for Republicans,â€? says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart. â€œThis is a very unhappy electorate thatâ€™s going to be unstable, and they are terrifically unstable numbers for a Republican majority.â€?
Perhaps the best news for Republicans in the poll is that Democrats arenâ€™t necessarily faring much better. â€œBoth parties are having difficulties,â€? McInturff observes.
So are Democrats poised to take advantage of this situation and pick up seats in the 2006 congressional elections? Not necessarily. While the poll shows that a plurality of 43 percent views the Republican Party negatively, the Democratic Party doesnâ€™t fare much better â€” just 33 percent view them positively, vs. 36 percent who see them in a negative light.
â€œWe have a year [left],â€? McInturff says. â€œWe donâ€™t see evidence where thereâ€™s much lift for Democrats.â€? Of course, thatâ€™s also especially true for Republicans.
As important as polling is, elections are the true gauge in American politics. And given the remarkably widespread rejection of the Republican Party in yesterday’s elections (the only Republican to emerge as a big winner was New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg — a lifelong Democrat before 2001 who remains closer in rhetoric and governing to the Democratic Party than the GOP), it looks like the electorate is ready for change.
Of course, this is certainly not to say that the Democrats have the 2006 Congressional elections in the bag. As the aforementioned polling indicates, although Democrats are less unpopular than Republicans, that doesn’t necessarily make them popular. Nevertheless, the Democrats have a golden opportunity to bring real change to Washington next fall and, if they blow it, it might be a very long time before they get another chance at recapturing either House.
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