Bush Finishes 19th Quarter in Office on Low Note

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Quarterly average only in 18th percentile

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- George W. Bush has now completed 19 quarters in office, and finds himself at the low point of his presidency with a quarterly average that puts him in the bottom 20% of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has job approval measures.

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Bush with a 39% job approval rating. Bush's most recent quarterly average -- for the period from July 20 to Oct. 19 -- is 43.9%. The president's 19th-quarter average represents a significant decline from his 18th-quarter average of 47.4%, which was, in turn, a significant decline from a 50.7% average in his 17th quarter in office.

The decline in Bush's job approval rating becomes starkly clear when put in the context of quarterly averages for all other presidents since Harry Truman. Bush's 19th-quarter average of 43.9% ranks in just the 18th percentile, meaning that just 18% of all quarterly averages for all other presidents in Gallup's historical database have been lower. By way of contrast, Bush's post-Sept. 11 averages in late 2001 and 2002 ranked at or near the top of the quarterly percentile rankings, scoring in the 94th to 99th percentiles.

George W. Bush Quarterly Approval Averages

Quarter

Dates

Average (%)

Percentile compared to
other presidents since Truman

1

Jan 20-Apr 19, 2001

58.4

57

2

Apr 20-Jul 19, 2001

55.8

49

3

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2001

68.3

84

4

Oct 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002

86.0

99

5

Jan 20-Apr 19, 2002

79.5

98

6

Apr 20-Jul 19, 2002

74.9

94

7

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2002

67.7

82

8

Oct 20, 2002-Jan 19, 2003

63.5

74

9

Jan 20-Apr 19, 2003

63.3

73

10

Apr 20-Jul 19, 2003

64.0

76

11

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2003

55.7

49

12

Oct 20, 2003-Jan 19, 2004

55.4

48

13

Jan 20-Apr 19, 2004

50.9

38

14

Apr 20-Jul 19, 2004

47.9

30

15

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2004

50.1

36

16

Oct 20, 2004-Jan 19, 2005

51.6

39

17

Jan 20,2005-Apr 19, 2005

50.7

37

18

Apr 20,2005-Jul 19, 2005

47.4

28

19

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2005

43.9

18

The sharpest quarter-to-quarter decline in Bush's quarterly approval ratings came between his 10th and 11th quarters, at a time when approval of the Iraq war dropped precipitously. The only times at which Bush's ratings went up by at least a point since his fourth quarter were the two quarters in the midst of last year's presidential election -- from July 20, 2004, to Jan. 19, 2005, when his quarterly average rose from the 30th percentile to the 39th percentile.

There are limited data available to compare Bush's standing with other presidents' standings at the same point in their presidencies. Only Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton served second terms, and two of these -- Truman and Johnson -- initially became president on the death of their predecessor.

Bush compares unfavorably with three two-term presidents who served a full eight years. Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton all averaged close to a 60% job approval rating in their 19th quarters in office.

Nixon, who in July-October 1973 was mired in the Watergate scandal, averaged a 31.8% approval rating during his 19th quarter in office. During that time, former White House counsel John Dean alleged that Nixon was aware of plans to cover up the Watergate burglary. Later, the White House's secret taping system was revealed, and the Nixon administration refused to turn over the tapes to the special prosecutor and the Senate committee investigating the matter.

19th-Quarter Averages of Recent Presidents

President

Dates of 19th quarter

19th-quarter
average (%)

Number
of polls

Eisenhower

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1957

59.5

4

Nixon

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1973

31.8

6

Reagan

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1985

61.3

4

Clinton

Jul 20-Oct 19, 1997

58.8

6

Bush

Jul 20-Oct 19, 2005

43.9

11

Because Truman and Johnson served less than two full terms, their 19th-quarter averages were not their 3rd quarters after being re-elected, as it was for the other aforementioned presidents. Truman had a 45.0% average during his 19th quarter in office (October 1949-January 1950) and Johnson had a 41.8% average in his (April-July 1968). During his 19th term, Johnson was beset by the problems in Vietnam.

Survey Methods

The averages are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of approximately 1,000 adults each, aged 18 and older, conducted July 20-Oct. 19, 2005.

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