ABC News/Washington Post Poll Undercuts Rationale For Bush's Second Term
(Thanks to the Washington Post for the graphics)
Where I come from, this is evidence of a collapse in support for a man who allegedly squeaked his way to reelection with only 51% of the vote just seven months ago. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out tonight on the ABC newscast and in the Post, shows that Bush and the GOP are facing the political firing squad on a number of issues, and it is well past time for the Democrats to be handing them their last cigarettes.
For the first time since the war in Iraq began, over half of the American public believes the fight there has not made the United States safer, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
While the focus in Washington has shifted from the Iraq conflict to Social Security and other domestic matters, the survey found that Americans rank Iraq second only to the economy in importance -- and that many are losing patience with the enterprise.
Nearly three quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting -- in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in ten now believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.
Perhaps most ominously, 52 percent said the war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States, while 47 percent said it did. It was the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion President Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home. In late 2003, 62 percent thought the Iraq war aided U.S. security, and just three months ago 52 percent thought so.
James Burk, a sociologist at Texas A&M, said the disillusionment about Iraq may have grown to the point that policymakers will have difficulty reversing it. "People all across the country know people in Iraq [so] there's a direct connection to the war," he said. He sees a "disjuncture" between upbeat administration rhetoric and realities the public perceives. "These data suggest we will soon reach the point, if we haven't yet reached the point, where that kind of language will seem too out of touch."
On the Alleged War on Terror:
The surge in violence in Iraq since the new government took control -- 80 U.S. soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis died in May amid a rash of car bombings -- has been accompanied by rising gloom about the overall fight against terrorism. By 50 percent to 49 percent, Americans approved of the way Bush is handling the war on terror, down from 56 percent approval in April, equaling the lowest rating Bush has earned on the issue that has consistently been his core strength with the public. Some authorities on war and public opinion said the figures indicate that pessimism about the war in Iraq has reached a dangerous level. "It appears that Americans are coming to the realization that the war in Iraq is not being won and may well prove unwinnable," said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, now a professor at Boston University. "That conclusion bleeds over into a conviction that it may not have been necessary in the first place."
"You hear a lot about Saddam but nothing about Osama bin Laden. I don't think he [Bush] does enough to deal with the problems of terrorism. . . . He's done a lot of talking, but we haven't seen real changes," said another poll respondent, Kathy Goyette, 54, a San Diego nurse. "People are getting through airport security with things that are unbelievable. . . . I don't think he learned from 9/11."
Independents are abandoning Bush on terror:
The drop in Bush's war on terror approval ratings came disproportionately from political independents. In March, 63 percent of independents approved of Bush's job on terrorism. By April this had fallen to 54 percent. And in this weekend's survey, only 40 percent gave him good marks.
On the Bush and Congressional GOP Agenda:
Overall, more than half-- 52 percent -- disapprove of how Bush is handling his job. A somewhat larger majority-56 percent-- disapproved of Republicans in Congress and an identical proportion disapproved of Democrats.
However, there were signs that Bush and Republicans in Congress were receiving more of the blame for the recent standoffs over such issues as Bush's judicial nominees and Social Security. Six in ten respondents said Bush and GOP leaders are not making good progress on the nation's problems; of those, 67 percent blamed the president and Republicans while 13 percent blamed congressional Democrats. For the first time, a majority, 55 percent, also said Bush has done more to divide the country than to unite it.
A plurality said Bush is doing worse in his second term than in his first, and 58 percent said he is not concentrating on the things that matter most to them -- the worst showing Bush has had in this measure in Post polls.
Congress fared no better. The proportion of the public disapproving of the legislative body was at its highest since late 1998, during Bill Clinton's impeachment. More people said they would look at a candidate other than their sitting congressmen than at any point in nearly eight years. For the first time since April, 2001, Democrats (46 percent) were trusted more than Republicans (41 percent) to cope with the nation's problems.
The poll also found disapproval or division when it came to Bush's performance on several other recent, high-profile issues. Only 33 percent supported the way the president is handling federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, while 55 percent did not. The public divided on the president's handling of judicial nominations, 46 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving. And half said they were opposed to drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a proposal Bush has backed and which is now being debated in Congress.
Folks, what you are seeing here, admittedly seven months too late, is a direct repudiation of everything Bush ran on last year. The public rejects the Bush linkage of Iraq to the war on terror; the public has turned firmly against the war itself, and no longer rejects comparisons to Vietnam. And even though the public views that the economy is getting better, they arenít willing to cut Bush any slack for that. And this is happening against a backdrop of dissatisfaction with the agenda and positions taken by Bush and the GOP Congress on other issues and the direction of the country.
Everything the Democrats need to regain power is contained in this poll, where the party needs to talk like an opposition party and tell voters what Democrats can do for the country. Among several steps, the party needs to regain some spine on Iraq and to no longer be afraid to mention Vietnam in the same sentence. It appears that the country is actually ready to talk about Iraq openly, and the poll shows that Democrats no longer need to fear a smack down from the right for challenging Bush on Iraq and terrorism. Voters are not feeling more secure and in fact are growing concerned about the erosion of our civil liberties here at home.
Quite simply, Democrats need to make the case out loud that the best way for voters to ensure that they are being heard and that their issues are being addressed is to elect more Democrats next year.