Tom flaherty 2009-06-24 12:14:28
Confidence in Bush slips further
MSNBC staff and wire reports
Public support for President Bush is slipping on a wide range of issues,
including the economy, health care and the war in Iraq, but his Democratic
presidential rivals do not appear to be capitalizing, according to a
national survey released Tuesday.
PUBLIC APPROVAL for Bush himself remains high, at 60 percent, in the latest
survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. That was
essentially unchanged from a similar survey by NBC News and The Wall Street
Journal six weeks ago and down 5 points from the same Pew poll in early May.
Except for a two-week spike above 70 percent in April shortly after the end
of major combat in Iraq, Bush’s ratings in Pew surveys have consistently
ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-60s for the past year.
But when respondents were asked about individual matters of concern,
assessments of the president’s performance suffered significantly in the
Discontent with Bush’s efforts to revive the economy rose from 53 percent in
May to 62 percent, while 72 percent — including 52 percent of
Republicans — said the president was not doing enough to deal with the
nation’s growing health care problems.
Daily violence since Bush announced an end to major combat in Iraq in March
also appeared to contribute to a steady slide in public confidence in the
war. Seventy-five percent said the military effort was going “very well” or
“fairly well,” compared with 93 percent the last time Pew asked that
question, in mid-April.
Few questions about Iraq were asked in Pew’s May survey, which focused more
on domestic political issues.
PORTENTS IN IRAQ SUPPORT
Polling for the April survey began the day after U.S. forces, in widely
televised scenes, tore down a 40-foot statue of former President Saddam
Hussein in Baghdad and U.S. commanders said his reign had ended. Since then,
U.S. forces have been afflicted by a series of attacks by Iraqi militant
forces, who have killed 29 U.S. personnel.
A breakdown of the data on Iraq could be a troubling indicator for the
administration. While three-quarters of Americans continue to believe the
war effort is going “very well” or “fairly well,” there has been an enormous
shift between those two assessments.
In the April survey, the proportion who said the war was going “very well”
was 61 percent; in the new survey, it was only 23 percent. The proportion
who said it was going only “fairly well” jumped from 32 percent to 52
And almost all the rest moved into the “not well” camp, which rose from 4
percent in April to 21 percent this month. During the war, no more than 10
percent took a negative view of the military situation in Iraq.
For the new survey, Princeton Survey Research Associates questioned 1,201
adults by telephone from June 19 through last Wednesday. It reported a
margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.
NO DEMOCRATIC BUMP
The rising signs of discontent have hardly helped the Democrats.
Even though unhappiness with Bush’s effort to revive the economy, a critical
domestic issue for the Democrats, increased from 53 percent in May to 62
percent, only 38 percent said Democrats could do a better job on another
domestic issue, health care, compared with 31 percent who picked the
That was the smallest Democratic advantage on health care in Pew’s polling
since October 1994, when the Clinton administration was in the middle of
what would be a failed effort to reform the health care system.
The mixed assessments contributed to the failure so far of one of the nine
declared Democratic presidential candidates to break away from the pack and
become established as a clear challenger. Support for the candidates largely
tracked their name recognition, according to the poll.
For example, while former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has captured headlines
recently — raising $7.5 million in three months and finishing first in an
unofficial Internet “primary” — only 37 percent of the subset of 905
registered voters in the survey said they had heard of him, and only 32
percent of those said there was a chance they would vote for him.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrats’ vice presidential
nominee in 2000, had the highest name recognition of the candidates, at 83
percent. Of those voters, 45 percent also said there was a chance they would
vote for him.
Rep. D*** Gephardt of Missouri, the former House Democratic leader, was
known to 75 percent of the registered voters, and 45 percent of them said
they might vote for him.
In fact, the Democrat who commands the most support is not running. Former
Vice President Al Gore led the pack with 47 percent saying they might vote
By comparison, 63 percent of the registered voters said they might vote for
Bush. In the same poll at about the same time four years ago, Bush and his
Republican rivals, John McCain and Elizabeth Dole, all had majorities saying
they might vote for them, as did Gore and his main Democratic challenger,
“The Democratic field gets modest evaluations, even among people who know
who they are,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.
“You might expect some candidate would come to represent an alternative to
the American public,” Kohut said. “But that hasn’t happened so far.”
MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson and
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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