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Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060505/ap_on_el_ge/republicans_ap_poll;_ylt=Ahn5JUPjQm1CH.XshP2mFhGyFz4D;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA-- Conservatives Drive
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5 6:30 AM
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060505/ap_on_el_ge/republicans_ap_poll;_ylt=Ahn5JUPjQm1CH.XshP2mFhGyFz4D;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--

      Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down

      By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer 42 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - Angry conservatives are driving the
      approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led
      Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos
      poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election
      Day massacre.

      Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush
      and Congress has risen sharply, along with the
      percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on
      the wrong track.

      The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters
      are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in
      the middle of a president's term traditionally favor
      the party whose core supporters are the most
      energized.

      This week's survey of 1,000 adults, including 865
      registered voters, found:

      • Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job
      performance, the lowest of his presidency. That
      compares with 36 percent approval in early April.
      Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now
      disapprove of the president.

      • Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job
      Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and
      down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping
      65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.

      • A majority of Americans say they want Democrats
      rather than Republicans to control Congress (51
      percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap
      recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31
      percent of conservatives want Republicans out of
      power.

      • The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the
      past three months, with the percentage of people
      describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12
      points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10
      conservatives say America is headed in the wrong
      direction.

      Republican strategists said the party stands to lose
      control of Congress unless the environment changes
      unexpectedly.

      "It's going to take some events of significance to
      turn this around," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "I
      don't think at this point you can talk your way back
      from those sorts of ratings."

      He said the party needs concrete progress in
      Iraq and action in Congress on immigration, lobbying
      reform and tax cuts.

      "Those things would give the country a sense that
      Washington has heard the people and is responding in a
      way that will give conservatives a sense that their
      concerns are being addressed," Ayres said.

      Conservative voters blame the White House and Congress
      for runaway government spending, illegal immigration
      and lack of action on social issues such as a
      constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Those
      concerns come on top of public worries about Iraq, the
      economy and gasoline prices.

      Candice Strong, a conservative from Cincinnati, said
      she backed Bush in 2004, "but I don't agree with the
      way he's handling the war and the way he's handling
      the economy. I think he should have pulled our troops
      out of Iraq."

      Hardline conservatives are not likely to vote
      Democratic in the fall, but it would be just as
      devastating to the Republicans if conservatives lose
      their enthusiasm and stay home on Election Day.

      AP-Ipsos polling suggests that Democrats may be
      winning the motivation game. Fewer voters today than
      in 2004 call themselves Republicans or
      Republican-leaning. In addition, 27 percent of
      registered voters were strong Republicans just before
      the 2004 election, while only 15 percent fit that
      description today.

      Democratic numbers are the same or better since 2004.

      "This tells us we've got our work cut out for us,"
      said Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), a
      conservative Republican from Kansas who may run for
      president in 2008. "The key for us is to show
      restraint on spending and on dealing with
      immigration."

      Bush's strong suit continues to be his handling of
      foreign policy and terrorism, an area in which he
      modestly improved his ratings since April. Still, a
      majority of Americans disapprove of his performance on
      both fronts.

      It gets worse. Only 23 percent of the public approve
      of the way the president is handling gasoline prices,
      the lowest in AP-Ipsos polling. Those who strongly
      disapprove outnumber those who strongly approve by an
      extraordinary 55 percent to 8 percent.

      As for his overall job performance, history suggests
      that Bush's paltry 33 percent spells trouble for
      Republicans in the fall.

      In the past six decades, only one president had a
      lower job approval rating six months before a midterm
      election — Richard Nixon in May 1974, the year in
      which Watergate-scarred Republicans lost 48 seats in
      the House and four in the Senate.

      By November, Nixon was out of a job too, having
      resigned the presidency in August.

      Nearly half of the public strongly disapproves of
      Bush, a huge jump from his 5 percent strong
      disapproval rating in 2002. The poll has a margin of
      error of 3 percentage points.

      Of all Republicans, nearly 30 percent disapprove of
      the job Bush is doing, including 13 percent who feel
      strongly about it.

      "Hopefully this is a wakeup call for my party to get
      out of its bunker and hunker mentality," said
      Republican strategist Greg Mueller, whose firm
      specializes in conservative politics.

      He urged his party to start criticizing Democratic
      positions on the Iraq war, immigration and the
      economy.

      "We've been like a punching bag," Mueller said.

      Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six
      in the Senate for control of Congress, no easy task in
      an era that favors incumbents.

      "What we have to do is earn the public approval of our
      right to govern again," said Democratic Party chairman
      Howard Dean.

      The Democratic strategy is to nationalize the
      elections around a throw-the-bums-out theme.

      Republicans counter that they will do better than
      polls suggest when voters are forced on Election Day
      to choose between candidates in their particular House
      and Senate races.

      "But," Ayres said, "we better get in gear."

      ___

      On the Net:

      Ipsos — http://www.ap-ipsosresults.com

      ___

      Associated Press writer Will Lester, manager of news
      surveys Trevor Tompson, and polling director Mike
      Mokrzycki contributed to this story.
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