President George W. Bush's job approval ratings have hovered around the 40% mark for the last month. It appears much of the public is at odds with the president on a more personal level, too: Americans are divided as to whether Bush has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have, and a majority disagree with the president on issues that matter most to them.
A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll*, conducted just prior to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' withdrawal and former White House staffer Lewis "Scooter" Libby's indictment, finds the percentage of Americans who agree that Bush has the personality and leadership qualities a president should possess has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time in his presidency.
Gallup has asked this question many times since Bush took office in 2001. Early in his administration, a June 2001 Gallup Poll found a majority of Americans (54%) agreeing that Bush had the personality and leadership qualities that a president should possess. This percentage surged to 79% in January 2002, a few months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. By June 2003, it had decreased to 64%, and then dropped again to 59% that September. Throughout Bush's campaign for re-election in 2004, a majority of Americans (ranging from 55% to 59%) agreed that Bush had the personality and leadership qualities to be president.
Views of Bush's personality and leadership qualities turned somewhat sour this year. In May, a slim majority of Americans (52%) said Bush has these qualities, while 45% said he does not.
Majority Disagrees With Bush on Important Issues
The Oct. 21-23 poll also finds only about 4 in 10 Americans say they agree with Bush on the issues that matter most to them.
Shortly after Bush took office, Americans were divided as to whether they agreed (49%) or disagreed (47%) with him on the issues that mattered most to them. By August 2001, Americans became slightly more positive on this question, with a slight majority (52%) saying they agreed with Bush.
In January 2002, as Bush's job ratings soared following the 9/11 attacks, the percentage saying they agreed with Bush on important issues jumped to 71%. But that accord began to fade after the United States military action began in Iraq in 2003. By September, the percentage had dropped to 46%.
A majority of Americans, 55%, again said in January 2004 that they agreed with Bush on important issues. But throughout the 2004 election campaign, Americans were more divided on this question.
Partisanship Shapes Perceptions of Leadership Qualities, Agreement on Issues
Both of these measures differ starkly between Republicans and Democrats.
- Nine in 10 Republicans (91%) say they agree that Bush has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have. Forty-one percent of independents and just 13% of Democrats share this view.
- More than 8 in 10 Republicans (84%) say they agree with Bush on the issues that matter most to them. Among independents, 34% agree with this statement, and among Democrats, just 5% agree.
Gallup has consistently found vast partisan differences on both of the measures since Bush first took office. The single exception is the January 2002 poll, four months after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which partisan differences were not nearly as dramatic. In that poll, a majority of Republicans (98%), independents (76%), and Democrats (61%) agreed Bush had the personality and leadership qualities to be president. Ninety-seven percent of Republicans in that same poll said they agreed with Bush on the issues that matter most, while 65% of independents and 47% of Democrats concurred.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 21-23, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error 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.