PRINCETON, NJ -- George W. Bush's job approval rating remains in a fairly steady holding pattern, with 34% of Americans approving of his performance as president, according to the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 USA Today/Gallup poll. In the prior four Gallup Polls, his approval rating was either 31% or 32%. The two-point increase from the Nov. 11-14 poll is within the poll's margin of sampling error.
For the last two years, most of Bush's approval ratings in the Gallup Poll have been below 40%. Since March 2006, he has had just 4 approval ratings of 40% or higher (of 49 measured), the last of which came in September 2006, nearly 15 months ago. Bush's approval rating has dropped below 30% just once -- a 29% reading in July of this year, which is the lowest of his term.
Compared to early 2006, when Bush's job approval rating was last consistently above 40%, Bush's support has eroded most among Republicans. He had already lost the support of most Democrats well before 2006, making additional declines from this group less likely.
The 2006 results are based on combined data from four polls conducted between Jan. 6 and Feb. 9, when Bush's overall approval ratings averaged 43%. The 2007 results are based on the five most recent Gallup Polls, spanning October, November, and early December.
Bush's approval rating among liberal or moderate Republicans (including Republican-leaning independents) has dropped from an average of 73% in early 2006 to 57% in late 2007, a decline of 16 percentage points. The drop has been nearly as large among conservative Republicans, from 87% to 73%. His approval ratings among Democrats and independents, all of which fall below 30%, have shown much less change.
Because Bush's ratings are so low among Democrats and independents, and have not changed much in the past two years, Bush's overall approval rating is not likely to drop much further unless he does something that Republicans -- his usual core political allies -- disagree with. For example, his term-low 29% approval rating came just after Congress failed to pass a bill Bush supported that addressed the issue of illegal immigration.
There has been some positive news for Bush lately with more optimistic reports from Iraq and his efforts in leading Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But high gas prices and more general concerns about the economy may conspire to work against him. There can be a lot of inertia built into presidential approval ratings near the end of a president's term, underscored by the overall stability in Bush's ratings since early 2006. Absent some major international event that would cause the public to rally behind the president, it is unlikely Bush's approval rating will get much better between now and the end of his term.
These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,006 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 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.