Update on Ratings of Bush, Congress

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Thirty-seven percent approve of Bush, 22% of Congress

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll, conducted Dec. 6-9, finds 37% of Americans approving of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, an improvement from his recent scores in the low 30s. Meanwhile, 22% of Americans approve of Congress, essentially unchanged from last month. Both Bush's and Congress' ratings remain low by historical standards.

In early November, 31% of Americans approved of Bush as president -- just two points off his term-low rating of 29%. Since then, his rating has improved on each Gallup Poll, and although none of these individual changes have been statistically significant, the long-term increase from 31% in early November to 37% in the new poll is.

The poll does not provide specific insights into what might be behind improved perceptions of Bush. One possibility is that Bush's role in jump-starting Middle East peace talks late last month cast him in a more positive light. Another is the recent series of encouraging reports on the situation in Iraq.

Even if the arrow is pointing up for Bush, his ratings are still quite poor. He has not had an approval rating of 40% or above since September 2006. That better-than 14-month run of sub-40% approval ratings has been surpassed by only one other president since Gallup regularly began tracking presidential approval ratings. Harry Truman spent 26 months below 40% job approval from October 1950 through the end of his presidency.

Congress' ratings are likewise low from a historical perspective. The 22% approval rating is just four points higher than the record low of 18% registered in March 1992 and again this past August. Congress' job scores have fluctuated throughout the year, showing significant improvement in some polls and significant declines in others. The one constant is that Congress' job ratings have been below 30% each month since May.

At the time of last year's midterm elections, when voters transferred partisan control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats, 26% of Americans approved of Congress. After a brief "honeymoon period" at the beginning of the year, and nearly a year after the Democrats took control, Americans' views of Congress are no more positive (and are actually a bit more negative) than at the tail end of Republican rule.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 6-9, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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