Dems' Ballot Lead Holds as Bush Approval Inches Up

Taking a look at the overall trend of George W. Bush's approval rating provided by PollKatz, it appears that the numbers have moved up slightly, though noticeably, in recent weeks. Two polls released this week, in fact -- the Hotline / Diageo poll and the LA Times / Bloomberg poll (both .pdf) -- show the President's numbers up to 41 percent.

But even as President Bush has regained some support from the American people (though much of the movement has come within the Republican Party), Bush's Republican allies in Congress continue to fair poorly in opinion polling. From the LAT/Bloomberg survey:

If the election for Congress was being held today, which party would you like to see win in your congressional district: the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?

Republican -- 35 percent
Democrat -- 49 percent

As you may know, this November all seats of the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the United States Senate are up for election. After the election in November, would you like to see the Democrats take control of Congress, or would you like to see the Republicans continue to be in control of Congress?

Republicans keep control of congress -- 34 percent
Democrats in control -- 54 percent
Each party control one house of congress (vol.) -- 4 percent

There certainly are qualms within the blogosphere and certain segments of political scientists about the usefulness of generic congressional ballots. In past years, for instance, Republicans have been able to erase Democratic leads to maintain control of Congress.

While there certainly is a case to be made that Republicans are more likely to turn out on election day, negating even moderate Democratic leads in generic congressional ballots, at no previous point in recent memory has any party fared so well on these questions, or for so long.

Since the middle of February, only seven of 29 non-partisan polls (as recorded by Polling Report) have shown the Democrats' lead to be in the single digits, and no poll dating back to last fall (which is when the data on the site begins) shows the Republicans holding a generic congressional ballot lead. In fact, with the exception of one poll from Fabrizio, McLaughlin -- a Republican polling firm -- no poll during this entire time has shown the Democrats' lead to be below 5 percent.

The data found by the LA Times and Bloomberg, which are not dissimmilar from the numbers released by Gallup or even Pew this week, indicate that the Republicans still have their work cut out for them in the coming months -- even with the institutional biases that tend to allow the party in power to stay in power.

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Plurality of Americans Still Favors Withdrawal

Aside from the generic Congressional ballot numbers, one of the more interesting pieces of data from the latest USA Today / Gallup poll released tonight focuses on the American presence in Iraq.

Here are four different plans the U.S. could follow in dealing with the war in Iraq. Which ONE do you prefer?

Withdraw immediately: 17 percent (19 in March, 19 in Nov.)
Withdraw in 12 months' time: 32 percent (35 in March, 33 in Nov.)
Withdraw, take as many years as needed: 42 percent (39 in March, 38 in Nov.)
Send more troops: 6 percent (4 in March, 7 in Nov.)

You might say that the trend is moving towards the stay the course position and you would be correct. But consider two points.

  1. More Americans believe today that we must withdraq from Iraq within the next 12 months than believed we should withdraw from Vietnam within 12 months in the summer of 1970; and,
  2. Just shy of a majority of the country believes America should be getting out of Iraq even after the dog and pony show put on by George W. Bush.

Is it a good thing that Al-Zarqawi is no longer leading a terrorist movement in Iraq? Probably. But the death of Zarqawi will not alleviate the inter- and intra-sect tensions that afflict Iraq today, nor will it make Iraq's security forces competent overnight. Put another way, things aren't likely to get better in Iraq any time soon solely as a result of Zarqawi's death. And given this fact, if the President can't get anywhere near a majority behind his plan for Iraq at this relative high point in public support for his policies, it's nearly inconceivable that he will ever again be able to marshall the support of the American people for his Iraq strategy.

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No More Rasmussen for Me

With the exception of an outlying Fox News Poll, every major survey since the end of April has shown President Bush's approval rating to be 34 percent or lower (source: PollingReport.com). Most recently, polls from USA Today / Gallup and CBS News / New York Times found the President's numbers to be a feeble 31 percent, and the Harris Poll released today by the Wall Street Journal shows a whopping 71 percent of Americans rating George W. Bush unfavorably with only 29 percent rating him positively.

Given the fact that there is near consensus among pollsters that President Bush's job approval numbers are in the low-30s at best, how is it that Rasmussen Reports continues to show President Bush's approval numbers in the low-40s or high-30s? Even more quizzically, how is it possible that Bush's numbers are about 10 points higher in Rasmussen Reports surveys than other such polls even after the company changed its samples to be more Democratic leaning?

Certainly it could be the case that all of the national pollsters are wrong and Rasmussen is right. Perhaps Rasmussen's automated polls are just more accurate than traditional polling operations; after all, Rasmussen performed quite well in 2004. That said, the aforementioned possibility is fairly unlikely.

So what does this mean? For me, until I see some change in the results of the Rasmussen polls -- until their data come closer to the margin of error rather than being 10 points off the general consensus -- I'm not going to post on their results, even from statewide elections. It's quite possible, for instance, that Rasmussen's statewide polls skew as far to the right as do their polls on the President's approval rating. My decision doesn't mean that you won't be seeing the results of Rasmussen polls on this site, as there are more than one of us writing for MyDD. What's more, it's important to note that I'm necessarily correct, statistically speaking, in making this decision. But I'm not the first blogger to make such a decision and might not be the last to do so, either. So unless I see hear a strong argument as to why I'm wrong, it's going to be a while before I post the results of another survey from Rasmussen Reports -- if I ever do.

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Americans' Bearish Attitudes Augur Poorly for Republicans

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal and NBC (.pdf) released polling that showed President Bush's approval rating to be at an all-time low. Likewise, fewer Americans approve of the Republican Congress than ever before (or put another way, the last time Congress' approval numbers were this low was before the GOP takeover in 1994).

While these numbers certainly do not bode well for the Republican Party as it seeks to retain control of Congress in November, other data from the poll underscore even more fundamental weaknesses within the GOP and augur very well for the Democratic Party.

Pollsters and politics watchers often look at the right track/wrong track number from a poll to get a good sense of the mood of the American people -- whether they're content with the status quo, open to change or demanding change. The WSJ/NBC poll shows the right track/wrong track numbers today lower than they have been this century, with just 24 percent of Americans believing the country is heading in the right direction. Ominously for the GOP, the wrong track number today is not significantly different than it was in the summer of 1992, just three months before they lost their first Presidential election in 16 years.

This is not the only indicator that should have Republicans concerned. Today, only 17 percent of voters believe that the economy will be better in one year's time than it is today, with a whopping 44 percent believing that it will be worse. Only once have either of those numbers been worse in the last 15 years this question has been asked. Doubtless this number is tied to the very high prices Americans now pay for a gallon of gas, a worrisome fact for Republicans given that they have little stomach for the type of policies that could actually lead to lower gas prices (such as higher mileage standards).

But even leaving $3 a gallon gasoline aside, more Americans have been bearish than bullish about the American economy in every poll since May of 2005, indicating that Americans worries about the economy cannot be assuaged by a rising stock market or record corporate profits. Indeed, it very well could be that the great excesses at the top levels of the economy -- with the ultra-rich getting richer and huge corporations dominating every day Americans' small businesses -- are only exacerbating these concerns.

The economy and economic fairness in particular are issues tailor made for the Democratic Party. Over the next six months leading into election day, Democrats would be well served by sticking to their bread and butter by reminding the American people that a vote for the Republican Congress is a vote for a continuation of policies that hurt many Americans economically and that, what's more, a vote for the Democrats is a vote for the type of policies that helped foster the great economic growth of the 1990s. With a strong message on the economy, the Democrats can bring real change to Washington this year.

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Bush Approval Stuck in the Mud

George W. Bush may have arrested his fall in the polls but he certainly has not regained any momentum according to the latest polling from Time magazine.

Despite the fact that the President has expended great effort in the last few days to reconnect with voters, he clearly has not been effective. According to the latest Time survey, which was conducted over the last two days with a margin of error of roughly 3 points, President Bush's approval rating is 37 percent, a statistically insignificant change from 39 percent last week -- though a drop nevertheless.

This was not the most interesting statistic from the poll, however. The Time survey asked a number of questions related to immigration reform and one piece of data particularly stuck out to me. According to the poll, Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants already in the United States to gain citizenship if they have a job, learn English and pay taxes by more than a 3 to 1 margin. So much for the notion that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to any form of amnesty...

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