Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bush Approval: CBS 27%, Trend at 28.9%

A new CBS News Poll taken 6/26-28/07 finds approval of President Bush at 27% and disapproval at 65%. With this poll, my approval trend estimate stands at 28.9%.

CBS and Fox polls completed at the end of last week neatly bracket the approval trend, with Fox 2.1 points over trend at 31% and CBS at 1.9 points below trend. Recent polling has followed the downward trend with equal numbers of polls above and below trend (5 above and 5 below of the last 10). There have been no outliers for some while, either high or low.

Likewise, three of the last 6 polls have generally positive house effects, while three tend to run below trend. Clearly it is not an imbalance of recent polls that have continued the downturn in approval.

The question remains one of how long the current slide can continue. Historically, presidential approval has rarely fallen into the 20s. While some polls are still giving readings in the 30s, the trend remains sharply downward. However, we are now approaching historic lows. An approval trend of about 29% implies we should see a range of polls between 24% and 34% if the trend stabilizes at its current level. Further decline would predict at least some individual polls that threaten to reach the all time low of President Truman at 22%. Given President Bush's remaining substantial support among Republicans (CBS puts Republican approval in the current poll at 66%, but with Independent support slipping to 18%.) , a loss of that loyal support would seem necessary for a fall to such historic low levels. (Truman had much less support from Democrats than Bush has enjoyed from Republicans.)

Such a bottoming out would seem to require an open breach with Congressional Republicans, as a signal to rank and file that support of the President is no longer expected. With the immigration bill off the table, pressure for a break on that score is actually less now than last week. Iraq looms as the greater challenge, though that requires a shift of position from Congressional Republicans who have staunchly supported the war and criticized Democrats for supporting withdrawal. The double trick will be for Republican Congressional leaders to offer a face saving rationale for a change in Iraq policy while at the same time criticizing their party's president for a failed policy. We've seen some efforts along this line last week. But will the floodgates open or can the President retain the support of his party on the most important issue of his presidency? If he loses that support, we will probably have to rescale the y-axis of our plots.