Bush's approval ratings: what changed?

Inspired by this thread.

So, Bush’s approval ratings have gone from some of the highest in history (just after the terrorist attacks), to some of the lowest – the numbers being kicked around in that thread range from 19 to 30 percent. For as long as I’ve been aware of it, this fact has left me profoundly confused, and I’m hoping the Dope can shed some light on the particulars.

Now, I can certainly understand the reasoning beind disliking Bush; hell, I have a lifelong subscription to the newsletter. The confusing part is that these ratings, combined with the fact that he did manage to win the 2004 election by however narrow a margin, mean that a significant portion of the people who voted for him then don’t approve of him now. My question:

What did these people think he was going to do?

It’s not like his positions or methods have changed since his first term. He’s still escalating the same conflicts he started, coming down in favor of “national security” over civil liberty whenever the question comes up, and practicing hardline neoconservative big-business economics. If you supported it then, why wouldn’t you support it now? What was the wake-up call? Was three years not long enough to get out of the post-9/11 “America good->Bush=America->Bush good” haze, but seven did the trick? Is hating Bush just the trendy thing to do, causing some people to jump to a different bandwagon?

I’ve not yet found a Bush-basher in meatspace who’ll cop to having voted for him, so my question remains unanswered…and despite the undertone of snark in its asking, I truly am interested in the answer. I honestly can’t fathom what expectations people might reasonably have had of Bush in 2004, based on his past perforance, that he deviated from his course and failed to meet.

What about Bush has changed between 2004 and now that a rational person with consistent views could dislike him now while having supported him then? Anyone care to offer up some theories?

It comes down to the war. I know a small handful of people who voted for Bush in 04 (like 3, maybe 4) and all of them thought Glorious Leader had his eye on the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq.

But here we are, almost four years since the election and we’re no better off in Iraq than we were then (and some would say we’re in worse shape).

When even the soldiers are telling you what a fucking disaster the war, the Bush afterglow starts to fade away.

Also I suspect that the idea of a President Kerry was enough to turn off many of those who might have otherwise voted against Dubya.

Two factors to consider:

  1. Some people vote for a candidate they don’t approve of, because they disapprove of the opponent even more.

  2. Approval rating among voters (i.e. people who actually cast a ballot) may be different from approval rating among the whole population. Polls measure the latter.

I suppose. I’ve never supported the whole “devil you know” line of thinking – given the choice between someone whose positions are ambiguous or waffling, and someone whom I’m certain will do only things I hate, I’ll take the former every time – but there are plenty of people who think this way, so it could be a reason.

Regarding #1, see above. As for #2, sure, the samples aren’t the same, but they’re decent-sized samples drawn from the same population, so it’s highly likely that some overlap exists. I’m not saying that winning 51% of the vote and having a 20% approval rating now means that 31% of the voting population has switched sides. I’m saying that some of it has, postulating that the number comprising “some” is significant enough to be curious, and wondering what the reason(s) for that might be.

You can’t fool all the people all the time.
Some of the people who were fooled by him in 2004 are now longer fooled.

Some still are.

In addition to Kerry being a terrible candidate, several things have changed since 2004:

His support of amnesty for illegals is a huge issue for his base. Immigration wasn’t an issue in 2004. Granted, it’s largely a wedge issue created to distract from the disaster in Iraq, but hardline conservatives are dead-set against amnesty

His support of the Dubai ports deal (Feb 06) pissed off his red meat base as well.

His failed Social Security reform plan (his first major action after the 04 election) ticked off many conservatives, either because he didn’t get it done, it didn’t go far enough, he abandoned it, or some combination

The bombing of the Samarra mosque in early 06 really drove home the point that Iraq was splintering, not coming together. Even the delusional had to admit that Iraq was not all roses and puppies.

Add to that the economic issues that a President is blamed for for regardless of what they had to do with it and you get record low approval ratings.

I actually find it hard to believe he’s still as high as 30%, given that he’s pissed off everyone from hard left to hard right.

You have to step outside of yourself to understand people who don’t think like you. The people who disapprove of Bush might have voted against Kerry because they didn’t like him, and not like Bush because he has not been nasty enough for their tastes. Or ineffective in carrying out procedures, like torture and the like. They want someone tougher on terrorism, civil liberties be damned. Just find someone conservative and get on their glurge list.

One of the things to keep in mind, when a president’s approval rating goes into the toilet, is that his own party is turning against him. Very often, the factors which cause his party to turn against him are the opposite of those which caused the opposition to hate him from the beginning. Democrats turned against Jimmy Carter because he was insufficiently liberal, and Republicans turned against Bush 41 because he was insufficiently conservative.

In the case of Bush 43, I’d wager that a good fraction of the 20% that have turned against him since 2004 did so not because he started the war, but because he can’t win the frigging thing. A real president, they believe, would have sent more troops earlier and kicked ass a little harder and gotten this crap over with.

Am I really the first to mention hurricane Katrina?

It was a massive failure. Even the good folks at Fox News had to admit that the government had abandoned the people of New Orleans. Brownie demonstrated how thoroughly corrupt and unprepared key elements of Bush’s bureaucracy were, especially for agencies that would prove important if there was another massive terrorist attack.

By definition, half of America has an IQ of 100 or below. These people are very susceptible to whatever line is currently being peddled. If, in the wake of 9/11, it’s “The President is the Uniter” line, they’ll swallow that whole. Or if, in the wake of Katrina, it’s “The President is an Uncaring Bumbler,” they’ll swallow that too. The approval ratings are like a wind vane.

I’m with you. That seemed to break through the reality distortion field. Iraq was and is a disaster far away, Katrina was a disaster up close, and it was clear from the stories that his aides had to make up a DVD to get him to realize what was happening. It’s been downhill from there.

I think this really smacked some Bush supporters. My father-in-law, a conservative guy from a blue-collar background in western PA, was, I think, deeply shocked that something like that could happen in America. That the United States could turn into the Third World, and nothing could be done about it.

I think he also illustrates a tough-to-pin-down bloc of the voting population–socially conservative, but from a labor background. They can swing both ways in an election/poll. Rep. Murtha (D) of Johnstown is a good example of this type of guy–pretty conservative, hawkish, yet also a democrat and pro-labor. There are a lot of people who subscribe to the Republican social (that is, moral) and military agenda but to the Democratic labor and social-services agenda, and they could easily swing their vote/poll response.

Bush’s first term was full of grandiose promises: cut taxes while still running a huge surplus, spend more on various federal programs while reducing spending overall, turn the Middle East into an earthly paradise of freedom and democracy, privatize social security, create a national school voucher program.

On paper, it all looked pretty good. As time has gone on, more and more people have been forced to accept that he can’t do any of these things, and that in most cases he never really intended to.

Am I the first to mention gas prices? Gas was slightly under $2/gallon average nationwide at the time of the 2004 election. It now hovers around $3/gallon. Can Mr. Bush do anything about the price of gas? No, not much. Can people be upset with him about this issue? Sure, plenty.

just a thought–
there is a difference between “approval rating” and “actually voting”.

Approval rating has no consequences. It just means that somebody answered a telephone call and said, “yeah, I kinda think Bush disappointed me, I’m not so happy with him.”

Voting has conseqences. For example: in 2004 many people said, yeah Bush disappointed me, and I disapprove of him, but we still need to do the responsible thing and stay in Iraq to clean up the mess, so I’ll vote for Bush .

Result: support for Bush by the same people who are listed by the pollsters as not supporting him. It’s not as contradictory as it seems.

I voted for W both times. (Ducks and covers)

I drive around with a “Republican Against Bush” bumper sticker. I would seriously consider slapping him if I met him. I don’t know if I could continue teaching with that conviction.

For me:

I came to really realize the fundamental discord in Iraq, and stopped believing that it might have a democratic future.

My brother went to Iraq for a year, and I couldn’t tell what he was taking all these chances for. What good was he really doing?

Bush tried to get an illegal alien amnesty. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly think it was just an attempt to do something, almost anything that would be judged significant, and possibly positive by some. He and people like Diane Feinstein lied out their butts and said it wasn’t an amnesty, when it was almost a textbook example.

He’s been shown repeatedly to be incapable of listening and changing his mind. Who among us is right all the time?

He’s blundered his way in so many cases into making America look like some knee jerk redneck. And I’m a registered Republican.

Oh, and as someone with pretty mainstream Christian/Republican views, what was my attraction for Kerry even supposed to be?

You need to consider the 27% Crazification Factor.