Thursday, April 20, 2006

Approval declines: Fox 33, Harris 35, Pew 35, All below trend

Three new polls. The shock is that all three are below the current trend. As of yesterday the trend was 37.0%. Today's results: Fox 33%, Harris 35%, Pew 35%. Finding all three below the previous trend is striking. The new trend estimate is pulled down to 35.9% approval.

The Harris poll was taken 4/7-10/06, properly in an earlier set of polls. That reading is 35% approve, 63% disapprove. (This just appeared on PollingReport.Com. I'm not clear what accounts for the delay between field period and release of the data.) This represents a 1 percent decline in approval from early March and an 8% decline since early January.

The Pew poll was taken 4/7-16/06 and finds approval at 35%, disapproval at 55%. That is a 2% INcrease since their 3/8-12 poll, and a 3% decline from early January.

The Fox poll was conducted 4/18-19/06 and registers 33% approval and 57% disapproval. The previous low for Fox was 36% (both 4/4-5/06 and 11/8-9/05). The Fox approval reading is down 9% since early January.

My local trend estimate with these polls included is 35.9. Yesterday without them it was 37.0. That large a change is due to all three agreeing that approval is below the previous estimate, though the low Fox value also drags it down. The Fox poll is both the most recent and with a 2 day field period, short compared to Pew's 10 days of interviewing. Compare this with Gallup's 36% in their 4/10-13 poll. Both Fox and Gallup have small positive house effects, +.66 for Gallup and +.57 for Fox, so there is little difference between these two due to that. The implication is a 3% decline in approval over the week from 4/13 to 4/19. That seems high to me. While the president's approval ratings do seem to continue to decline, that is a much higher rate than what we've seen since February. (The rate since February, including these polls, is -.11% per day, or 1% each 9 days.) So either something bad has happened to generate the new, sharp decline for Fox, or this is an unusual poll and will probably rebound in the next Fox reading. Given the trend estimate of 35.9, I'd expect to see some improvement in the next Fox poll, but readings that are in the ball park of 35% in the next round of polls in a week or so.

One has to imagine that new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten is asking himself what can be done to halt this slide that is well on its way to destroying the president's second term. From the happy talk of a new "Republican Majority" following the 2004 elections, we've seen Republican partisanship in the electorate decline over the past 15 months (see here if you must), policy initiatives of some daring fail even with Republicans, and a lack luster State of the Union which seems now largely irrelevant. A successful immigration bill that includes a clear presidential win on guest workers and a path to citizenship, coupled with tough border enforcement, seems the best chance for the White House to improve it's condition (and appears supported by the polling data as acceptable to the public). Such a compromise would require successful presidential leadership, and such a success would be the best news in a long time for the administration. But can they do it?

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