Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bush approval in decline? Gallup at 37%

President Bush's approval ratings appear to have ended an upswing that began May 15, though the jury is not yet unanimous. The latest USAToday/Gallup poll conducted 7/21-23/06 finds approval at 37% and disapproval at 59%. The previous Gallup approval reading was 40% on 7/6-9. Since then we've seen AP at 36%, Fox at 36% and Harris at 34% (though those were small increases from previous AP and Harris results, a decline for Fox.)

With the addition of the new Gallup data, approval has clearly changed its upward trajectory, though by how much remains to be seen. My standard, conservative, estimate shown as the blue line has noticably reduced the upward slope, though continuing to suggest a rise. That estimate is 37.8% approval as of 7/23. This estimate is deliberately slow to believe what new polls are saying, and takes some 6-10 new polls to be convinced of a change in trend. The current shift in slope is a "leading indicator" that the trend is shifting and that eventually the estimator will acknowledge it.

Meanwhile, my hasty, impetuous and sensitive red-line estimate is ready to declare that approval is on the way down, and that indeed the decline started in mid-to-late June (the current estimate being June 19th, but let's not be too hasty about that! This will change as new data accumulate. There were three polls in the 40-41% range in the second or third weeks of June, and I'd bet that ends up being the peak when we get enough data for "old-blue" to sniff out the date of the maximum reliably.) The red-line estimate is currently 36.2% approval, down from a peak of 37.4%.

As a believer in conservative statistical estimates, I'd still say we need more data to develop a reliable estimate of where approval is, and where it is headed. But after two months of good polling, the White House needs to brace for some less good times to come. The general lifting of Republican pessimism recently must now adjust to uncertainty as to where Presidential approval is headed and how that will play in November's elections. The Gallup survey finds that evaluation of the President's handling of the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict (37-56, the question is actually about "the situation in the Middle East") is no better and no worse than his overall approval rating. So at the moment that is a wash. Secretary Rice's current trip could possibly change that, either way. But given the limited likelihood for a diplomatic breakthrough, this doesn't look to be a big help for the President.

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