Bush Loses Support of His Base

Polling released today by Gallup finds that President Bush's approval rating continues to be mired down, with this week's number pegged at 37 percent.

Of more importance from the data released today, however, are the demographic breakdowns of Bush's approval rating over the last three or so months, with each of the subgroups maintaining a fairly low margin of error due to the large overall number of interviews conducted this summer. Comparing the numbers published by Gallup with the exit polling from 2004, we find some very interesting things.

President Bush is down among just about every demographic, and the extent to which he has dropped is similar among most of these demographics (close to 15 percent, which mirrors his overall decline). Bush is even down significantly among the key demographics that propelled him to reelection in 2004. What this tells us is that contrary to Republican claims that the conservative base is currently holding, a sizeable chunk of the GOP base -- close to 1 in 6 -- has abandoned the President since his reelection bid. If this trend continues through November, and it seems unlikely that there will be a major turnaround before then, Republicans running for Congress this year will be in for a seriously rough ride.

(I'm going to try to put together a graph comparing Gallup's polling and the exit polling from 2004 that I'll put up either later today or early tomorrow.)

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Bush's Regional Approval Rating Could Cost the GOP the House

This morning Gallup released polling showing President Bush's approval rating again at 40 percent, which will no doubt lead television pundits to once again proclaim a "Bush bounce" (overlooking, of course, the fact that Gallup tends to register a higher approval rating for the President than other polls and that the change from last week's poll is statistically insignificant). But taking a look inside of the numbers, it becomes clear that George W. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress are in a much more tenuous position than even the lackluster national numbers would indicate.

According to Gallup's latest survey, President Bush's approval rating is passable in the South at 49 percent, mediocre in the midwest at 40 percent but downright awful in both the West and the East at 35 percent and 31 percent, respectively. And while the President's approval rating is slightly above its 2006 average in the South and the Midwest, it is flat in the East and actually down in the West.

The split among regions of the country should cause great concern for the Republicans working to maintain control of the House this fall. Out of the 54 Republican-held seats ranked by the Cook Political Report (.pdf) to be competitive or potentially competitive, 15 come from the East, where President Bush is currently the weakest. So in the region in which the President is the greatest potential drag on Republican House candidates, there are enough pick-up opportunities for the Democrats to give them the US House. In the West, where George W. Bush's approval rating is similarly terrible and trending downward, there are another 12 GOP seats that are either already competitive or have the potential to be competitive (again, as ranked by Cook), giving the Democrats well more than enough possibilities in the regions least favorable to the President to pick up the House. And given the fact that the seats even outside of these two regions in which we already have head-to-head polling -- Kentucky's 4th district or Indiana's 2nd district for example -- show the Democratic candidate leading by a double-digit margin, it looks like this November could be great for House Democrats.

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CBS/NYT and NBC/WSJ Polls Bode Well for Dems

This evening polls were released by CBS News / The New York Times (.pdf) and NBC News / Wall Street Journal (.pdf), both of which by and large augur well for the Democrats.

On two key domestic issues, the minimum wage and stem cell research, voters closely align with the Democrats. According to the CBS/NYT poll, eighty five percent of voters are in favor of raising the minimum wage by more than two dollars over the next two years, with a whopping 74 percent of strongly favoring the proposal. And on the issue of stem cell research, a 59 percent majority of voters approves of embryonic stem cell research, with 70 percent of voters saying that funding for the research should either be increased or maintained at its current level. The numbers on stem cell research is echoed in the NBC/WSJ poll, which found that 63 percent oppose President Bush's veto of a bill funding the research, with 47 percent strongly disapproving.

Americans' dour impressions of Iraq do not bode will for the Preisdent or the Republican majorities in Congress, either. According to the CBS/NYT poll, just 32 percent of Americans approve of Preisdent Bush's handling of Iraq, 30 percent of Americans believe the war has been worth it and Americans favor the Democrats over the Republicans on the issue of Iraq by a 48 percent to 36 percent margin. The NBC/WSJ poll found similar results, with 34 percent approving of Bush's handling of Iraq. Perhaps more importantly, CBS and The Times found that 56 percent believe that America should set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, undercutting any suggestion that Democrats' support for redeployment of US troops will hurt them at the polls this fall.

George W. Bush's approval rating currently sits at 36 percent, with 55 percent disapproving, according to the CBS/NYT poll, which was statistically similar to the 39/56 spread found in the NBC/WSJ poll. These were the fourth and fifth straight polls putting Bush's approval under 40 percent, an extremely dangerous position both for the President and Republicans in Congress heading into November. The Democrats' generic congressional ballot leads in the CBS/NYT poll (45 percent to 35 percent) and NBC/WSJ poll (48 percent to 38 percent) both show the effects of Republicans' unpopularity on issues and the public's general unhappiness with the Bush administration.

There are some numbers that should give the Democrats pause before they jump straight to euphoria or even optimism. The Times poll shows that 57 percent of voters approve of their own representative. Nevertheless, this number is less than it was in 1980, when the Republicans scored an 11-seat gain in the Senate, and roughly the same as in 1994, when Republicans retook the House for the the first time in four decades.

There are a lot more data to pour through from these two polls, and I'll try to peel out more information in a bit.

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Yet Another Poll Shows Bush Mired in Mid-30s

Yesterday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal published the findings of the latest Harris Poll, the results of which bode poorly for the President and his Republican allies as they go into the last 100 days before election day.

Of 1,002 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 34% said Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, up a tick from 33% in June. By comparison, 65% of Americans said Mr. Bush is doing an "only fair or poor" job, down from 67% last month.

This is the fourth of the last five major national polls to find President Bush's approval rating to be in the 34 percent to 36 percent range, which represents a noticable drop from the than the 41 percent rating President Bush notched in three national surveys from late June.

If President Bush remains below 45 percent -- let alone below 40 percent -- heading into election day, the Republican Party runs the risk of major losses in both the House and the Senate, potentially losing both chambers. However, if the President's approval rating continues this short downward trend, or even remains in the mid-30s come November, it will be extremely difficult for the GOP to maintain control of either House of Congress. Just take a look at the Democrats' double digit generic congressional ballot lead found by Harris Interactive.

With midterm elections less than four months away, the poll also asked respondents whether they would choose a Democratic or Republican candidate "if the election for Congress were held today." Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the Democratic candidate, up from 41% in April, while 31% said they would vote for the Republican candidate, down from 37% in April.

Now it is true that these are generic numbers, not actual head-to-head numbers from individual races, and that, what's more, the Democrats are still not close to the 50 percent threshold at which they can begin to feel more optimistic. Nevertheless, the Republicans are at 31 percent in this poll, a truly afwul position to be in this close to the election. And if they are anywhere near this number on generic congressional ballot questions closer to the time at which voters cast their ballots, I am confident that the Democrats will score significant gains in both the Senate and the House.

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Bush Drops Five Points in New Fox News Poll

Bush's moderate short-term bounce following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has disappeared according to the latest Opinion Dynamics poll commissioned by Fox News.

The president's approval rating dropped to 36 percent, down from 41 percent approval two weeks ago and 40 percent in mid-June. Bush lost ground this week among some key constituent groups, such as Republicans, whites and men. Overall, 53 percent of Americans say they disapprove.

According to PollingReport.com, this is the second of three major polls to show President Bush's approval rating to be in the mid-thirties rather than the low forties. So will the establishment media, led by Fox News (who paid for the poll), begin the "Bush is once again tumbling" drumbeat? I'm not holding my breath...

Surprisingly, as the poll shows President Bush's approval down, even among Republicans, and fewer Americans approving of Congress as a whole (25 percent, down from 29 percent in June), it also finds the Democrats' generic congressional ballot lead down a bit.

With Democrats preferred on most issues, as one might expect, they win the generic ballot test. By 42 percent to 34 percent, voters say they would support the Democratic candidate if the midterm election were held today. Their current 8-percentage point advantage is down from a 13-point edge last month (June 13-14).

However, Opinion Dynamics freely admits that it may be underestimating the Democrats' lead.

So far, interest in this year's elections is modest: 19 percent of voters say they are extremely interested and another 38 percent very interested. Democrats (23 percent) are slightly more likely than Republicans (17 percent) to say they are extremely interested.

"It is worth noting," observes Gorman, "that `interest' is one significant component of turnout scales. If Democrats are not only preferred but also turn out in higher numbers than Republicans, the current polls may actually be underestimating their strength." [emphasis added]

Given the anecdotal evidence that the Democrats' generic congressional ballot lead is actually holding in a number of House races around the country, it is at least somewhat encouraging to hear from the pollster hired by Fox that they might be "underestimating [the Democrats'] strength" heading into the midterm elections.

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