. . . Tuesday June 29, 2004

Approval Hits and Disses

The latest poll numbers are in and they don’t paint a very pretty picture for the President who currently suffers from a 42% approval rating. As a rule of thumb, the incumbent’s approval rating provides a decent barometer of the percentage of the vote that he’ll get in the general election. In addition to the approval rating, 57% of respondents think the country is on the wrong track and 45% have a negative opinion of Bush himself.

A few other trends to note:

- Oedipal Update: 43′s approval ratings are still nine points higher than 41′s were at this period of his term in office.

- Low Foreign Policy Esteem: The new American edict appears to be speak softly and keep your president out of international trouble. People think W is doing a rather poor job on foreign policy and that the war in Iraq was an unnecessary mistake. Yet, Americans still generally feel safer with Bush than they do with John Kerry when it comes to handling a foreign crisis and/or the terrorism threat. In other words, yes our reputation among allies is dirt. And yes, Iraq may have been a bad idea executed poorly and no we don’t really trust this administration when it comes to the reasons behind the war or the crimes at Abu Ghraib, but still, they seem to be doing OK. On all these numbers, however, the trends look bad for Bush and it will take good news on the ground and a lot of dough in the airwaves to reverse those trends.

- Who’s That Dude at the Podium: A whopping 40% of voters say they do not have an opinion of John Kerry yet. Political insiders will explain that there is still a long time to go and the incumbent usually doesn’t make a splash until after both the convention and the choosing of a running mate. But this is no ordinary campaign. John Kerry, knee deep in anti-W cash, has spent more than $60 million in television ads alone. Still, people don’t have an opinion on him (and yes, those numbers look about the same in the swing states where the cash is being spent). It is unique to politics that a person can market themselves with tens of millions and not really make much of dent. When I was in high school, one time and only one time, I wore white jeans with a white sweater over a white T-shirt. That alone formed such a strong opinion in the mind of the girl I was trying to impress that I didn’t actually get a first date until about nine years later (even with a steady dose of radio and billboard saturation). To bring the story full circle, we just celebrated our sixth anniversary and my approval ratings are holding steady in the 18-20 percent rage (husband numbers that translate into the political equivalent of a 50 state sweep) .

- Hopeless in Hope: At this point in his own campaign, 44% of Americans had no opinion of Bill Clinton. A few short months later, pretty much all of us would’ve agreed to be bedded by him. (In a related poll, Fox News anchors and right wing radio talkshow hosts indicated that they spend about 44% of their time thinking about Bill Clinton. That leaves another 44% of their time to think about Hillary and a mere 12% to ponder Janeane Garafalo’s recent makeover.)

- Yucky Politicians: Both Bush and Kerry are disliked considerably more than they are liked. Some things about politics never change.

- (Pinto) Bean Counters: Nader still makes a difference. I find that perplexing. This poll only included 1,053 people. I figured you’d have to go through at least ten to twenty thousand people before finding one who had a response other than a Pavlovian Pinto joke when confronted with Ralph’s name. Are there really that many people on the left who would rather waste a vote on Nader than spend one against Bush? Impossible to understand, no? Can’t Michael Moore give this guy a job as an extra?

- Not Going Anywhere for Awhile: 54% of respondents said we should stay in Iraq as long as it takes while 40% said we should get out as soon as possible. Translation: Both candidates, most academics and nearly everyone with any connection to anything political sort of think that 40% of Americans probably aren’t fit to respond to poll questions.

- But Foreign Refers to Other Countries: 60% disapprove of Bush’s Iraq policy while only 50% disapprove of his foreign policy. But wait? Aside from Iraq, this administration’s foreign policy largely consists of defending the decision to go to Iraq and pissing off French people.

- Testosterwrong: Here are some of the numbers that should be most troubling among those on the Bush campaign team: Only 52% approve of the way Bush is handling the war on terror. That was once his calling card. The decision to link the war on terror and the war in Iraq could be the decision on which this entire race rests. More than 60% believe Bush is not being truthful when it comes to Iraq and 85% don’t believe the administration is being entirely truthful when it comes to the prison abuses. These numbers mark an incredible (and I think unpredictable) shift in the way Bush is perceived. It’s also somewhat remarkable that a whole lot of people are willing to overlook being lied to even when it comes to war and peace.

- The Waffle Truth: The flip flop smear campaign has been somewhat effective. But it has had a major side effect. People aren’t so sure that they like the idea of someone taking a position and sticking to it no matter what the facts are.

- In This Together: By an 18 point margin, people think that W has divided the nation. This is a key number. Again, look for Kerry to be downright Edwardsian in his effort to bring people together and offer a message of unity. Running mate angle: There is no one more Edwardsian than Edwards.

- Pretty much everyone agrees that the numbers in this poll will be rendered obsolete in about 45 minutes.

Concentration is important!