Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down
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
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
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
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
Republican strategists said the party stands to lose
control of Congress unless the environment changes
"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
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
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
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
"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
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:
Associated Press writer Will Lester, manager of news
surveys Trevor Tompson, and polling director Mike
Mokrzycki contributed to this story.