Newsweek: Bush approval hits all time low of 28 percent
Published: Saturday May 5, 2007
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NEWSWEEK Poll: Bush Hits All-Time Low - George W. Bush has the lowest presidential approval rating in a generation, and the leading Dems beat every major '08 Republican. Coincidence?

WEB EXCLUSIVE By Marcus Mabry, Newsweek

May 5, 2007 - It’s hard to say which is worse news for Republicans: that George W. Bush now has the worst approval rating of an American president in a generation, or that he seems to be dragging every ‘08 Republican presidential candidate down with him. But According to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, the public’s approval of Bush has sunk to 28 percent, an all-time low for this president in our poll, and a point lower than Gallup recorded for his father at Bush Sr.’s nadir. The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979. This remarkably low rating seems to be casting a dark shadow over the GOP’s chances for victory in ‘08. The NEWSWEEK Poll finds each of the leading Democratic contenders beating the Republican frontrunners in head-to-head matchups.

Perhaps that explains why Republican candidates, participating in their first major debate this week, mentioned Bush’s name only once, but Ronald Reagan’s 19 times. (The debate was held at Reagan’s presidential library.)

When the NEWSWEEK Poll asked more than 1,000 adults on Wednesday and Thursday night (before and during the GOP debate) which president showed the greatest political courage -- meaning being brave enough to make the right decisions for the country, even if it jeopardized his popularity -- more respondents volunteered Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton (18 percent each) than any other president. Fourteen percent of adults named John F. Kennedy and 10 percent said Abraham Lincoln. Only four percent mentioned George W. Bush. (Then again, only five percent volunteered Franklin Roosevelt and only three percent said George Washington.)

A majority of Americans believe Bush is not politically courageous: 55 percent vs. 40 percent. And nearly two out of three Americans (62 percent) believe his recent actions in Iraq show he is “stubborn and unwilling to admit his mistakes,”¯ compared to 30 percent who say Bush’s actions demonstrate that he is “willing to take political risks to do what’s right.”¯

Former New York City major Rudolph Giuliani receives the highest marks for having shown political courage in the past among the current major candidates from either party (48 percent of registered voters say he has), followed by Hillary Clinton at 43 percent, John McCain at 42, John Edwards at 33 and Barack Obama at 30. Mitt Romney comes in last among the six leading candidates at 11 percent.

Clinton receives the highest marks for showing political courage in the current campaign, though, with 34 percent of voters saying she has, followed by 33 percent for Obama, 30 percent for Edwards, 28 for McCain, 25 for Giuliani and 11 for Romney.

Obama is seen as the most optimistic candidate (a consistent measure of electability) in either party: 51 percent of registered voters say the Illinois senator is optimistic, compared to 47 percent who say Edwards is, 46 percent for Clinton, 45 percent for Giuliani, 40 percent for McCain, and 27 for Romney.

While the poll has some high marks for Clinton, it’s not all good news. Though the New York senator and former first lady aims to project an aura of inevitability that she will win the Democratic nomination, Obama beats the leading Republicans by larger margins than any other Democrat: besting Giuliani 50 to 43 percent, among registered voters; beating McCain 52 to 39 percent, and defeating Romney 58 percent to 29 percent.

Like Obama, Edwards defeats the Republicans by larger margins than Clinton does: the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee outdistances Giuliani by six points, McCain by 10 and Romney by 37, the largest lead in any of the head-to-head matchups. Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton wins 49 percent to 46 percent against Giuliani, well within the poll’s margin of error; 50 to 44 against McCain; and 57 to 35 against Romney.

Where Clinton remains the undisputed champ is among Democrats. When matched against her main rivals for the Democratic nomination, Clinton is the choice of 51 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters over Obama’s 39 percent; and she defeats Edwards 57 percent to 38 percent. Obama has not substantially narrowed Clinton’s lead since the early March NEWSWEEK poll, where he trailed Clinton by 14 points. Edwards has narrowed Clinton’s lead over him though. Back in March Edwards trailed Clinton by 31 points; now her lead is down to 19 points.

Giuliani, the Republican frontrunner, might want to look over his shoulder too. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, Giuliani leads McCain 56 percent to 41 percent (15 points). But two months ago in the NEWSWEEK Poll, Giuliani held a 25-point lead. Both candidates trounce Romney, despite his placing first in the first-quarter fundraising sweepstakes. Giuliani holds a staggering 51-point lead over Romney and McCain holds a 41-point lead over the former Massachusetts governor.

With 38 percent of Republicans dissatisfied with their party’s field, things could get interesting if former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson joins the race; 46 percent of Republicans who are dissatisfied with their candidates say he should (34 percent say he shouldn’t). Of the much smaller 14 percent of Democrats who are dissatisfied with their candidates, 60 percent say they want former vice president and Democratic nominee Al Gore to join the fray. Current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who changed parties shortly before running for mayor, receives unenthusiastic support from both Republicans and Democrats: 18 percent of dissatisfied Democrats would like to see Bloomberg join the Democratic field, and an even more anemic 14 percent of Republicans would like to see him join theirs.

All of the candidates can perhaps take some solace in Americans’ dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the United States at this time (only 25 percent are satisfied; 71 percent dissatisfied). American dissatisfaction ratings last hit 71 in the NEWSWEEK poll in May 2006, at the height of the scandal over secret government wiretapping inside the United States. The last time that even half of our survey respondents were happy with the direction of the country was in April 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war. With that many unhappy Americans, the nation should have a strong appetite for new leaders and new ideas.

The NEWSWEEK Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International May 2-3. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,001 adults, age 18 and older; the overall margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.