Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bush Approval: CBS/NYT 37%, LATimes 45%

Two new polls give substantially different estimates of President Bush's job approval rate. The CBS/New York Times poll (9/15-19/06) finds approval at 37% and disapproval at 56%. The LATimes/Bloomberg poll (9/16-19/06) has approval at 45%, disapproval at 52%. (The LATimes/Bloomberg poll also gives results for Registered Voters (RV): 44% approval, 54% disapproval. My analysis uses all adults whenever available. This is the most common population sampled.)

While these two polls disagree with each other, they are consistent with my trend estimate, though at the opposite ends of the range of normal variation around the trend. With both polls added, the trend estimate (dark blue line) stand at 41.2% approval.

The LATimes/Bloomberg poll finds approval increases across all party categories, from their 7/28-8/1/06 poll. Support for President Bush rose from 77% to 83% among Republicans. Among Independents support increased from 33% to 38%. And even among Democrats the rate rose from 11% to 19%. The latter is interesting given the common claim that opposition among Democrats is so strong that minds are made up and unchangeable. The CBS/NYT found little change among partisan groups, which is in keeping with the mere 1 point change in overall approval. Their approval results were 75% among Republicans, 31% for independents and 9% for Democrats. In their previous 8/21 poll CBS/NYT found 74% Rep, 31% Ind, and 7% Dem approval rates.

The CBS/NYT poll consisted of 30% Republican, 32% Democrat and 32% Independent. That is down 3 points among Dems and up 5 points for independents, with no change in the Republican category compared to the previous CBS/NYT poll. The LATimes did not provide a partisan breakdown (though they do provide a breakdown of many survey questions by party, which is welcome. It would be more welcome if they also told us how many are in each party group.)

One notable feature of the CBS/NYT poll is that it opens with a pair of questions on the "way things are going in the United States":
"I'd like you to compare the way things are going in the United States to the way they were going five years ago. Generally, would you say things are going better today, worse today, or about the same today as they were going five years ago?"

"And what is your best guess about the United States five years from now? Generally, if things go pretty much as you now expect, do you think things will be better, worse or about the same as they are today?"
This is interesting in comparison to the opening question in the LATimes/Bloomberg survey, the often used "right direction/wrong track":
"Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or are they seriously off on the wrong track?"
CBS/NYT finds only 18% saying things are going better today, 60% worse, and 19% say things are the same. The LATimes poll finds 31% saying right direction and 61% wrong track. In both polls the presidential job approval question follows these opening questions (which is a common placement.) You might wonder if the CBS/NYT invites "retrospective" evaluation of President Bush by the direct comparison of now to five years ago. However, the "worse" response in CBS/NYT matches closely the "wrong track" response in the LATimes/Bloomberg. So if this question order affects the results, it must be because of the temporal comparison in one compared to the current status (without comparison) in the other.

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