Conservative Republicans Still Widely Support Bush

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Averaging just 29% job approval overall thus far in December

PRINCETON, NJ -- George W. Bush remains popular among conservative Republicans (72% approve of him) despite his low overall approval rating. Meanwhile, moderate and liberal Republicans are as likely to disapprove as to approve of the job he is doing, and Democrats of all political orientations hold Bush in low regard.

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These results are based on Gallup Poll Daily tracking conducted Dec. 1-9, including interviews with more than 9,000 U.S. adults.

During this time, Bush has averaged 29% job approval among all Americans -- reflecting a slight improvement from the 25% approval rating he had at the time of the November election, yet still dismal by historical standards.

With such a low approval rating, it is hard to find many population subgroups that are favorable to Bush. A look at the groups giving Bush the 10 highest average approval ratings clearly shows how much one's opinion of the president is driven by political attitudes as opposed to demographic characteristics. Only four groups give Bush ratings in excess of 40% approval, and all are defined by political points of view. But because membership in these four groups overlaps (e.g., Republicans and conservative Republicans), when they are subdivided into mutually exclusive groups (as in the first graph), it really is only Americans who are both Republicans and conservatives who hold Bush in high esteem.

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Thus, it is not surprising that those at the other end of the political spectrum -- Americans who are liberal Democrats -- are least likely to approve of the job Bush is doing. The list of groups giving Bush his 10 lowest average approval ratings is dominated by left-leaning political groups.

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In contrast to the situation among Republicans of differing ideologies, there is not much separation in views of Bush among Democratic identifiers according to their ideological orientation. Basically all Democrats have a very low opinion of Bush, though conservative Democrats are somewhat more charitable in their ratings than are liberal or moderate Democrats.

Nonwhites -- who traditionally align with the Democratic Party -- also give Bush very low approval ratings. Just 16% of all nonwhites approve of Bush, including 7% of blacks and 19% of Hispanics. The finding for Hispanics is notable given Bush's efforts to court the Hispanic community while governor of Texas and while campaigning for president in 2000 and 2004.

Implications

As Bush serves his final weeks in office, he does so with the support of a small minority of Americans. Conservative Republicans essentially stand alone in their solid support of Bush. However, over the years, Bush has lost a significant number of supporters even among this core group, which formerly supported him at better than 90%.

Even so, Bush's approval rating has improved slightly in recent weeks -- similar to what has occurred for prior lame-duck presidents -- and further modest improvement is not out of the question.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 9,000+ national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 1-9, 2008, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Margins of error for subgroups will be higher.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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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