Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bush approval on rise: Cook at 37%

President Bush's approval ratings continue to improve with the addition of the latest Cook/RT Strategies poll, taken 6/1-4/06. The poll of 874 registered voters finds 37% approve and 57% disapprove of the job the President is doing. That is just a 1 percentage point improvement from Cook's 4/27-30/06 reading, but it reverses a series of declines in the Cook poll. More important for my purposes, with the addition of this poll, even my "conservative" trend estimate (the blue line in the figure above) is now clearly moving up. As of yesterday, with Quinnipiac and Gallup added, the trend estimate had flattened. Now there is a slight upturn. The current (conservative) estimate is that approval stands at 34.8%, up from 34.1% without the Cook data.

If I switch to the less conservative red line (but beware! it is also more easily fooled by short term noise!) then the upward trend is more pronounced, showing a gain of close to 3 percentage points since the low point in early May. (See yesterday's post for more discussion of these alternative estimates.) The red line estimate of approval now stands at 36.6% approval, up from yesterday's 36.3%.

As I said in earlier posts here and here, the conservative model takes some 6-12 new polls to be "sure" of a change in direction. And, of course, this new trend may or may not last. But the evidence is now strong enough to conclude that there has been a change in trend. We've not seen such a change since early February. I pointed out in an earlier post that the trend from February through April had been extremely close to linear, without evidence of any rallies, even short term ones. That linear trend has now clearly ended. Whatever is ahead, I will certainly have to add a new change point to my approval model.

One reader wrote to suggest I was overstating the case yesterday when I wrote
On the Democratic side, this is yet another notice served that they can't count on winning in 2006 simply on the basis of poor approval ratings of President Bush. He may not be that dramatically unpopular by election day.
After all, a few polls in May and June don't forecast November approval very well. I take the point, but I should not be read as forecasting future gains in approval. I don't do forecasting of that sort with this model, rather I model the current trend and let the future take care of itself. What my comment was directed to is Democratic glee over every "new low" over the past few months and a taste for what one blogger colorfully termed "20's flesh" when one poll touched 29% approval. The president's approval may yet fall again, even into the 20s. But the current rally shows that it could also rebound, perhaps into the 40s as it did in December and January. I simply state the obvious: if the President is not as unpopular in November as he has been this spring, what campaign themes do Democrats want to rally around then?

(And for Republicans, if he isn't so unpopular then, will you invite the President to public rallies and not just to private fundraisers?)

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