Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bush Approval: Four polls lift Bush

While I was busy getting launched, a funny thing happened to presidential approval. Four polls have come in since I last updated, and their collective impact is to raise my trend estimate of approval to 38.7%, a gain of 1.5 points since 8/25. Some caution is due, as readers who have followed the drama of where the trend is going this summer will know. We've seen the trend estimate look up, only to then look down, and to look flat. None of the moves this summer were sharp, but many have started in one direction only to reverse course. So maybe approval is now heading up, and this is a pretty good move in the trend estimate, but it is also possible the trend will again flatten. Let's look at the new polls and see what we can gather from them.

The new polling was kicked off by a Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll taken 8/25-27/06 with approval at 39% and disapproval at 55%.

Fox followed on 8/29-30/06 with approval at 38%, disapproval at 56%, a close match.

Next came CNN/ORC on 8/30-9/2/06 at 41% approve and 55% disapprove. CNN switched pollsters last spring from Gallup to Opinion Research Corporation (ORC). So far we only have 7 ORC conducted polls. Two of those are right on the trend, one is well below, one a bit high, and the last three have all been quite a bit higher than the estimated trend. Seven polls is too little to get a real tight estimate of the house effect we should expect from the CNN/ORC polls. The last estimate I did with only 5 CNN/ORC polls was near zero but with an expected wide confidence interval. The two new polls since then have both been over 2 points high relative to trend, with one a clear outlier. So we might discount this a bit, given the recent track record.

The latest poll is from Zogby, taken 9/1-5/06 with approval at 37% and disapproval at 63%. Zogby's house effect is -1.59%, and in recent polling has been among the lowest readings of Bush approval. (That -1.59 does not, however, make Zogby among the lowest house effects over the entire 2005-2006 period. The Zogby effect is about the middle of the houses with negative effects estimates.)

So what does all this say about the current trend estimate? It is not driven by a single high value. The CNN/ORC rating at 41 by itself would pull up the trend, but that is balanced in this case by the low from Zogby and the close estimates from Cook and Fox. Further, the house effects of these four polls are not extreme. Fox is only a +0.64 for example. Still, three of the four polls do have mild to moderate positive house effects, balanced somewhat by Zogby's negative one. So this may have contributed a bit to the rise in estimated approval trend. But not likely by too much.

So the bottom line is that estimated approval now stands at 38.7%, with a slight hint that this may be inflated by the house effects. But I think the bigger story is that the trend estimator continues to be pulled up a little bit, or down a little bit, depending on which recent polls have come in. This is the story of the last two or three months. Approval has (so far!) not been consistently up or down, and the fluctuations we've seen in the trend estimate have often been reversed by a handful of later polls. So, maybe up a point or more. But I wouldn't bet a lot either way. Yet.

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