Monday, December 12, 2005

Gallup, Cook continue Bush Upturn

New polls by Gallup and Cook/RT Strategies add further evidence that President Bush's approval ratings have improved significantly since Veterans Day. The new Gallup poll, taken 12/5-8 finds 43% approval and 52% disapproval. That compares to 38% and 57% in the previous Gallup poll taken 11/17-20. The Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll, taken 12/8-11 shows a gain from 41% to 42% in approval, but also a gain in disapproval from 52% to 55% compared to the previous Cook/RT poll taken 11/17-20.

This is the first sustained upturn in the President's approval since January 2005. Based on a statistical model that incorporates the year long trend and "house effects" of polling organizations, the current estimated increase since Veterans Day is 2.66%. However, it is worth noting that the increase now looks stronger than the current model will allow. An updated model is in the works. Stay tuned. In the graph above the local regression line, which does not depend on that model, estimates that the current resurgence in support now appears close to the pre-Katrina levels of approval in late August. The upturn has taken place in less than half the time of the decline since Katrina.

There has been a great deal of speculation about "how low can he go". There has also been discussion of "free fall" in approval. The current evidence clearly shows that the Bush administration is still capable of rallying support. The questions now are "how long will the upturn continue" and "is it possible for the administration to restore stable and favorable approval levels"? There are few historical examples of second term presidents who have recovered from approval levels in the high 30% range. Thus any appeal to history rests on the weakest of evidence.

The substantive driving forces remain mixed. The economy is doing well by historical standards, and consumer sentiment has recently improved. Gas prices are down. But the war in Iraq continues to cost lives and money. The domestic agenda lacks a clear positive thrust. What next? Being an empiricist, I'll wait and see.