Bush Approval at 68%

by David W. Moore

More than half of all Americans would vote for Bush if the 2004 presidential election were held today


PRINCETON, NJ -- According to the first CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted after the congressional elections, 68% of Americans approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president -- up from 63% just before the elections, but about the same level it has been for the past 3 months.

George W. Bush's Job Approval Rating

Following the midterm election results in 1982, President Ronald Reagan's approval rating remained essentially unchanged (43%) from his rating shortly before the elections (42%). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush's approval ratings before and after the midterm elections were identical at 58%. President Bill Clinton's approval rating before the midterm elections in 1994 was 46%, and three weeks later it was 43% -- a decline, but within the poll's margin of error.

Thus, the 5-point increase in the job approval of the current President Bush is unusual. Unlike the three previous examples, this year the party of the president made gains in the House of Representatives, and also regained majority control of the U.S. Senate. Many political analysts have cited Bush's vigorous campaign efforts on behalf of his party's candidates as a major factor in the GOP victory, and this public accolade could partly account for Bush's bump in approval ratings.

The current poll also shows that Bush is better positioned for his re-election efforts 2 years hence than was Clinton after his first midterm elections.

Other measures on which Bush was rated in the current poll include:

The Economy

Overall, 55% of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, up from 49% in October, but still much lower than it had been in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

George W. Bush's Job of
Handling the Economy

Foreign Affairs

There is essentially no change in this rating from October, which produced the lowest rating since 9/11. Still, by historical standards, the rating is high.

George W. Bush's Job of
Handling Foreign Affairs

Personal Traits

Sixty-six percent of Americans say Bush shares their values, up from 60% last July and the second highest it has ever been.

Bush Characteristics and Qualities:
Shares Your Values?

Sixty percent of Americans say the president "cares about the needs of people like you." This is unchanged from last July, and just slightly higher than the last reading before 9/11.

Bush Characteristics and Qualities:
Cares About the Needs of People Like You?

There is a slight increase in the number of Americans who say President Bush "understands complex issues," now at 64%, compared with 60% last July. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, 69% of Americans expressed that view.

Bush Characteristics and Qualities:
Understands Complex Issues?

Finally, just over half of all Americans (53%) say Bush has a clear plan for solving this country's problems. This is slightly higher than the 50% who say that about the Republican Party, but much higher than the 30% who say that about the Democratic Party.

Has a Clear Plan for
Solving This Country's Problems?

2004 Presidential Election

While it is clearly too early to predict the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, the post-election poll suggests that -- at least at this time -- President Bush is better positioned for re-election than was President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The current poll shows that if the presidential election were held today, more than half of all Americans, 55%, say they would vote for Bush, while 39% would vote for the Democratic candidate. By contrast, shortly after the midterm elections in 1994, Clinton trailed the unnamed Republican candidate by 54% to 40%. Those results were little changed from a poll conducted in the spring of that year.

Suppose the 2004 presidential election were being held today. If George W. Bush runs for re-election, are you more likely to vote for Bush, the Republican, or for the Democratic Party's candidate for president?

(As of today, do you lean more to Bush, the Republican, or to a Democratic candidate?)


Candidate of Opposing Party

DEPENDS (vol.)



George W. Bush

2002 Nov 8-10






Bill Clinton

1994 Dec 2-4 ^






1994 Mar 28-30 ^






(vol.) Volunteered response


WORDING: Suppose the 1996 presidential election were being held today. If Bill Clinton runs for re-election, are you more likely to vote for Clinton, the Democrat, or for the Republican Party's candidate for president? As of today, do you lean more to Clinton, the Democrat, or to a Republican candidate?

Much can change in the next 2 years, so these results are useful more as an insight into what the public is currently thinking than what will happen 2 years hence. It should be remembered that despite his poor showing on this question in 1994, Clinton went on to win re-election in 1996 by a comfortable margin.

Survey Methods

The latest results are based on telephone interviews with 1,014 national adults, aged 18+, conducted Nov. 8-10, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the 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.

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