Mr. 42%, Exhibit B
(Graphic courtesy of the Times)
After reporting yesterday that a Pew Center poll done this week shows Bush’s approval rating falling to 42%, a new CBS/New York Times poll came out late yesterday, which also showed that Bush’s approval rating had plummeted seven points since the end of February, down to 42%. The poll, weighted to reflect census and demographic factors, had a party ID breakdown of 34% Democrats, 28% Republicans, and 31% Independents, which was consistent with several other recent polls showing a shift away from the GOP towards independents. The message from this is clear: We are at a critical point where the Democrats can pull people back over to their side with a clear argument about what they can do for the country if more of them are elected next year.
President George W. Bush's job approval rating is now just 42 percent, and most Americans think he does not share their priorities.
Iraq and the economy -- not the President's signature issue of Social Security -- are most important to Americans, and Americans' assessments of both remain mixed, with support for the decision to send troops to Iraq matching its lowest percent ever.
Regarding Social Security, months of campaigning have not brought public acceptance of the personal accounts the President desires, nor resulted in increased confidence in his ability to make the right decisions about that program. In fact, many Americans claim they like Bush's plan less the more they hear about it.
Bush's job approval dropped significantly since last month among people aged 30 to 44, from 52 percent to 40 percent now. Approval among those in middle-income households (incomes between $30,000 and $50,000) also dropped, from 46 percent in May to 40 percent now. Bush also lost ground among white Catholics.
But the cultists are still happy with him.
However, the President retains the approval of some key constituent groups. More than 8 in ten Republicans approve of the job he is doing, unchanged in the past month, as do about 7 in ten white evangelical Christians. About two in three conservatives approve of him.
Only two in three conservatives support Bush?
Folks, the man is a minority president. But even as a minority president, he has lost any standing to dictate change on Social Security.
The President fares worst when it comes to opinion of his handling of Social Security. Despite Bush's months-long promotion of his plan for Social Security, only one in four Americans approves of the way he is handling the issue.
In addition, two in three Americans are uneasy about Bush's approach to Social Security; only 27 percent have confidence in his ability to deal with it. Even some (but not most) Republicans are skeptical. 32 percent of Republicans disapprove of Bush's handling of the issue, and 35 percent are uneasy about his approach.
42 percent say the more they've heard about Bush's proposals, the less they like them. Only 12 percent say that the more they've learned, the more they like Bush's plan.
And note how support for personal accounts shrinks to near nothing when the transition costs and massive debt is explained to respondents.
Support for personal Social Security accounts changes depending on the circumstances presented to them. The percentage that thinks such accounts are a good idea increases to 71% if the money in those accounts could be inherited by their children, and to 59% if people could potentially earn more money for retirement. However, the percentage drops to 22% if it would mean guaranteed benefits are reduced by a third, and to just 12% if the government has to borrow as much as $2 trillion dollars to set the program up.
Once again, I am calling for Democrats to come out with their own plan that raises the tax-withholding ceiling to at least $150,000. I know that many Democrats do not want their leaders in Washington to offer anything, but this poll points out that we have reached a point in the debate where Democrats can offer their solution and find broad support for it, simply because they are Democrats and not Bush or the GOP. Now is that time.
Americans would like to see some counter-proposal from the Democrats -- 67 percent say the party should make it a priority to develop an alternative to Bush's ideas, instead of simply working to keep Social Security just as it is now. Even Democratic partisans -- who strongly dislike Bush's proposals -- want to see their party put something forward.
Americans might want to see a plan from the Democrats because that party has been consistently seen as better able to deal with Social Security. In this poll, the Democrats have a 17-point advantage. However, Democrats have been unable to extend their lead on this measure in recent months.
Democrats have an opportunity to bury Bush and the GOP on this issue and show themselves capable of leadership, which will cement in critical support heading into the 2006 midterms.
As for Bush himself, here’s my question: if he claims the support of 7 in 10 white evangelicals (of which 31% in this poll self-identified as evangelical or born-agains), and 8 in 10 Republicans (which is a lower number than what voted for him in November), and this kind of support still only produced a 42% overall approval rating, then how low is his level of support amongst the non-evangelical, non-GOP population?