Tuesday, April 11, 2006

CBS/NYT and Gallup approval at 37%

UPDATED below to include new Cook/RT Strategies poll completed 4/9 as well.

New polls by CBS News/New York Times and by Gallup/USAToday both place presidential approval at 37%. That is a 3 percentage point upturn for CBS/NYT and no change for Gallup. Both polls argue for a flatter trend in approval. Gallup, as editor Frank Newport argued, sees approval in a new "steady state", down from late January-early February but stable since mid-March. The upturn in CBS/NYT contrasts with their two previous polls at record lows of 34%. The effect on my local trend (solid red line) is more flattening since mid-March, and a further departure from the linear trend (green line) which continues to under-predict approval by about 1 percentage point.

It is interesting that the CBS/NYT reading returns that poll to the middle of other polls, after a two-poll departure from the range of other organizations. The first two CBS/NYT polls of the year were easily in the range of others, while the next two were below that range, along with a March Pew poll.

Footnote here: The CBS News and New York Times sometimes poll together and sometimes CBS is solely responsible for the poll. While it is undoubtedly clear to CBS and NYT, it is not always clear to readers, including this one. The lack of NYT coverage of this new poll suggests it is not a partner this time. However, the CBS web site refers to some polls (2/22-26/06) as a "CBS News Poll" with no mention (that I've found) of NYT. The NYT site posts results from what appears to be that same poll, and bills it as "New York Times/CBS News Poll". (The alternation of first position is, as I understand it, part of the partnership agreement.) The NYT post appears to include only a subset of items, so perhaps that explains the difference, but I'm forced to guess here. Because it isn't trivial for me to tell the difference, I refer to "CBS/NYT" for all their polls, regardless of which organization is actually responsible. This is one of the oldest and most distinguished polling partnerships, but with an apparent decrease in NYT participation in recent years it is unfortunate that sponsorship is not more transparent.

Based on the full set of polls, it seems clear that approval spent March and early April declining from about 39% to about 37%, without reaching the lows of 34% and 33% estimated by the CBS/NYT and Pew polls (or the sub-36% estimated by some of my earlier models prior to the recent polls.) This more modest decline is still bad news for Republicans but falls short of the "free fall" celebrated by Democrats. Unfortunately for the White House, it isn't possible to "celebrate" 37% approval, even if the rate of decline has slowed. (And something must be done to improve this if President Bush is to have any influence with Congress.) Unfortunately for Democrats the trend may be less of a story, so something else needs to be offered beyond dissatisfaction with the incumbent. (Despite commentary comparing the Democrats' position now to that of Republicans in 1994, I'm struck that what the Democrats need but don't have is a Newt Gingrich-- someone who has systematically and for a long while been developing talent on the bench and a winning story line. Without hitters you can't take advantage of weak pitching.)

Based on all the polls, my local trend estimate is 36.8% approval. The linear trend is at 36.0%, which I believe to be too low.

UPDATE 4/11: Late today the Cook/RT Strategies results came out. They match the 37% approval of CBS and Gallup. Here is the updated graph.

The new Charlie Cook/RT Strategies Poll conducted 4/6-9/06 finds approval of President Bush's job performance at 37%, down ten points from January and down 3 points since late February. As the increasingly crowded graph shows, the downward trend from February through April has been common to most of the polls. The local trend remains a shade under 37% approval (36.86% for the numerically obsessed.)

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