Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bush Approval Trend Slips to 34%

President Bush's approval rating has fallen to 34% in my trend estimate. This is just barely above his all time low trend estimate on May 13, 2006. New polls included in this estimate include results from Fox (38%, 12/6), CNN (37%, 12/7), Marist College (37%, 12/3), AP (33%, 12/6), Newsweek (32%, 12/7) and Zogby (30%, 12/8). While the range from 30% to 38% may seem substantial, it is in fact comfortably within the +/-4.5% range around my trend estimate that we've seen over the Bush administration.

For a comparison of all pollsters, including these new polls, see our new feature at here. That feature will be updated each time I update the approval series and allows you to easily see the trend for each pollster in comparison to my estimated approval trend. (Scroll down to see the thumbnails for each pollster, and click on a thumbnail to see the full sized plot.)

The post-election decline is not surprising, given the election results. However, the White House has to worry that all the gains of the late spring and summer have now been lost. So far it seems unclear to me whether the President will be able to use the Iraq Study Commission report as an opportunity to recover some of his lost approval. And with the holidays approaching, now is perhaps not the most opportune moment to launch a new political offensive. But come January and the start of the new Congress, the President will certainly need some improvement with the public to help him confront the Democratic Congress. This assumes, of course, that the White House will have an agenda to press in the new year rather than retreat to a purely defensive stance vis a vis Congress.

On a technical note: This post marks the debut of new graphical formats for the approval series. A number of readers have asked for background grids for the charts, and I've finally found a color combination that I think works. The vertical grids are marked in quarters, with monthly tic marks on the x-axis. New years are marked with a slightly darker vertical grid line to help keep years straight. And the trend estimate is now printed right at the top of the table for convenient reference. (And yes, ego has overcome modesty and the graphs now say where they are from.)

The most important change from my point of view is that the "current" approval graph has now been scaled to run throughout the second term. I've written about why it is important to maintain a consistent scale to these graphs here. In practice I've used 2005 and 2006 for the second term up until now so the graphs wouldn't look too empty. But with the second term now half over, I think it is a good moment to shift to a full four year view. From now on, the current approval will be plotted in this perspective, with new points and trend added to the right of the figure as new data come in. The important thing is that this means the perspective of the trend will remain exactly the same for the next two years, so the rate of rise or fall can be compared just by looking at the figure. Virtually all the plots by pollsters or news organizations change the width of the horizontal axis as new polls come in. That distorts the trends over time because more data "scrunches" up the points and the trend over time. My graph will look the same for the next two years, so it is always comparable.

I've also scaled the vertical axis to run from 20% to 60% approval. We've only seen one poll below 30% in the last 6 years, but that came when the approval trend was just below 34%, as it is now. If the trend declines any more, it is likely we will see some readings in the 20s. This is NOT a forecast on my part, but in order to avoid any further rescaling of the graph, I've expanded the range.

The graph of approval over the entire Bush administration has also been spruced up with a new grid. This chart has always run the full width of a two term presidency and with approval from 20%-100%, so the scaling here has not changed. I've also added the current trend estimate to the top of the graph. The grid here is the same as for the second term: quarterly vertical grids, with darker lines for January 1, and monthly tic marks.

These graphs are saved and updated at the links listed in the top of the right hand column of the blog for easy reference. They are drawn at 768 x 768 resolution, and are best viewed at that. Some users may need to double click on the image to see it at that resolution.

There will be some more new things coming once the semester is finished and grading is done. Stay tuned.