PRINCETON, NJ -- Fifty percent of Americans now say they strongly disapprove of President George W. Bush’s performance as president. This marks the highest percentage of Americans strongly disapproving of his performance since Bush came into office. Although Gallup has not measured the intensity of job approval regularly over the years, this “strongly disapprove” number is among the highest Gallup has measured for presidents, going back to Lyndon Johnson.
All in all, the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Nov. 2-4, shows that Bush’s overall job approval rating is at 31%, with a 64% disapproval rating. This job approval rating is within two points of the lowest of the Bush administration -- 29% -- recorded last July.
What is striking about the current numbers is the disproportionate distribution of intensity of feeling about the job Bush is doing as president.
A substantial majority of those who disapprove of Bush as president say they disapprove strongly, while at the same time, those who approve of Bush are more likely to do so “moderately” than “strongly.”
Gallup has followed its classic job approval measure with this “strongly” probe on only an intermittent basis over the years, so it is important to note that the historical context is fairly limited. Additionally, other variations in polling over the years make comparisons of this measure inexact. Still, it is worth noting that the current 50% “strongly disapprove” figure for Bush is as high as Gallup has ever measured. (A February 1974 poll showed Richard Nixon’s strongly disapprove number at 48%, statistically equivalent to Bush’s current reading on this measure.)
Bush does, however, maintain relative strength in terms of intensity of support among members of his own party.
Among the 75% of Republicans who say they approve of Bush’s performance as president, 42% approve strongly, while 33% approve moderately. That 42% strong approval among members of his own party is by historical standards quite respectable. Presidents Reagan and Clinton had similar readings among members of their own party, while Carter, Ford, Nixon, and Johnson all had significantly lower intensity of support. In some cases, the latter group of presidents were in situations in which less than 30% of members of their own party said they strongly approved.
President Bush has maintained a relatively high degree of support among members of his own party, but among the large group comprising the almost two-thirds of Americans who disapprove of his performance as president, attitudes are intensely negative. Half of all Americans, and 78% of those who disapprove of Bush’s performance as president, say they “strongly” disapprove.
These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 2-4, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.