Pew Poll: Bush At 33%, Seen As Incompetent
Two more polls, both bad results for Bush. His approval rating in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out yesterday has now fallen to 37%, which as I said earlier this week means that the CBS News/New York Times poll out earlier this month which had Bush at 34% wasn’t an outlier, but rather the leading edge. This poll shows that many feel that Bush won’t recover from these numbers has he has shown the best he is going to give in the job. The poll reflects that Democrats have the edge on many issues now, with the exception of homeland security and Iraq, which boggles the mind given his problems with the war and in the aftermath of the Dubai ports debacle. And the poll also shows that respondents prefer Democrats by a 50%-37% margin for the fall election.
It should also be noted that only 26% in this poll feel that the country is headed in the right direction, at a time when not only is Bush getting no credit for the supposedly strong economy, but when first time filings for unemployment claims have gone up for four straight weeks, now past the 300,000 barrier to 309,000 last week.
More noticeable however is the newest Pew poll, which has Bush’s approval rating down to only 33%. The poll shows that Democrats benefited from the Dubai ports debacle.
Democratic leaders fared somewhat better than Republicans in this debate, based mostly on the support of their own partisans. Overall, three-in-ten say they thought Democratic leaders showed better judgment on this issue, while 20% favored the Republican leaders. Only 38% of Republicans favored the way GOP leaders handled the issue, compared with 54% of Democrats who favored the job their leaders did. Independents were more divided (29% favored how Democratic leaders handled the issue, 20% Republicans), while half saw no difference between the parties' performance.
The Pew poll also showed that respondents’ assessments of Bush personally have gone negative as well.
The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,” and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago.
Getting back to the two areas in the NBC poll where Bush still has advantages over Democrats, there really is no argument that this presidency will be judged on Iraq, and the possibility that Iraq will turn around to Bush’s favor between now and November is remote. Whether it is a parliament that convenes for one day and then shuts down, or more American air bombardments that kill innocent Iraqis, the prospect for civil war is great, if we aren’t in one already. And this poll shows that 61% want the number of American troops to be reduced in Iraq, so any more talk from Bush about staying the course is simply not going to help the GOP this fall. The problem for the Democrats is that they offer no alternative themselves for voters to evaluate, other than the argument that Bush has no plan other than to stay the course. Perhaps this will work for November, but I still don’t see the political harm by standing up for Murtha’s plan of redeployment to nearby countries and safe bases inside Iraq, with the added demand that the National Guard be brought home immediately. Both of these suggestions by Democrats would at least show voters that there is an alternative that a Democratically-controlled Congress could push for in 2007.
But on Bush’s other remaining advantage, homeland security, despite the good news in the Pew poll, I still think Democrats failed to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Dubai debacle to break through and establish themselves as more sensible and effective alternatives to the GOP on homeland security. I blame the Democratic leadership in both houses for this, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid continually fail to seize opportunities that fall into their laps.
But I will break from the rest of the center-left blogosphere here by also blaming Russ Feingold for possibly jumping out too far on the censure issue. I am glad that Tom Harkin has agreed to be a co-sponsor for Feingold, and that Lincoln Chafee is making similar noises of support. But even though the base may want Bush’s hide and loves talk about censure and impeachment, the public is not with us on this, or frankly with us on the NSA spying mess. The polls show that a tough line against Bush on domestic spying is a 50-50 proposition. Sure, this is a result of Pat Roberts and Arlen Specter whitewashing and covering up for the White House, but the way to deal with that is by getting more Democrats elected this fall so that Congress can effectively look into this next spring. It is not effective for Feingold to put his caucus in a bad spot by coming down on one side or the other on censure, dividing them once again, at a time when the GOP was demoralized over the White House’s mistake on Dubai, only to now hand them the opportunity to unite behind Bush and defend him against censure. We didn’t need to hand the GOP this resuscitator now, and yet that is what Feingold did.
I know my position is the minority position on our side of the blogosphere, but when your opponent is drowning, you throw them an anvil, not a rope. Feingold may have felt he was on the cutting edge of public opinion with the censure move, but the polls clearly showed that the public is not solidly with Democrats on the domestic spying issue as they were with Dubai. Yet Reid and Pelosi failed to capitalize on Dubai while Feingold gave the GOP caucus reason to rally on censure while making things difficult for his own caucus. It would be better to gradually make the case that Bush is wrong here, and tie his actions here to incompetence and deceit over the coming weeks and months, rather than jump right away to censure. Our leaders, and yes, our members and senators are still making too many mistakes to fully take advantage of the opportunities we have and that are demonstrated by public opinion.
Graphic courtesy of Pew Center