Rally Boosting Bush Approval Ratings

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Biggest effect on foreign affairs ratings; economic ratings less affected

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The war with Iraq has positively affected Americans' evaluations of George W. Bush. Immediately after the conflict began, Bush's overall job approval rating surged to 71%, up 13 points from his pre-war rating of 58%. The most recent reading, from a March 29-30 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, shows Bush's approval rating holding steady, and also suggests that the rally effect has positively influenced the way Americans rate his handling of the situation in Iraq, foreign affairs, and to a lesser extent, the economy. Bush's increased job approval ratings are high from a historical perspective, but are generally lower than what the elder George Bush enjoyed after the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

George W. Bush's current job approval rating is 71%, with 26% of Americans disapproving of the way he is handling his job as president. Since the start of the war, three Gallup Polls have shown his approval rating around 70%, up from 58% in the last pre-war poll.

George W. Bush's Job Approval Rating

Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq closely tracks with his overall approval rating, suggesting he is primarily being evaluated on his handling of Iraq. Indeed, his approval (71%) and disapproval (27%) ratings on Iraq are nearly identical to his overall approval rating. Furthermore, a statistical analysis shows that approval of Bush's handling of Iraq is the strongest predictor of his overall approval rating, taking into account his ratings on other issues. The following graph illustrates how closely the two measures have tracked recently.

Bush Job Approval:
Overall and for Handling of Iraq Situation

As the graph shows, Bush's rating on Iraq also spiked once the war began. The rally also extends to Bush's more general foreign affairs approval rating, currently at 64% after being at 53% immediately before the war.

The Economy and Taxes

The start of war also had a positive effect on how Americans view Bush's handling of the economy. Approval increased from 44% in the last pre-war poll, conducted March 14-15, to 52% in a poll conducted just over a week later. The current reading shows a slight drop to 49%, but still above the pre-war level. This pattern is similar to the public's ratings of the economy more generally, which spiked after the war but have since come back down. However, the ratings remain above where they were prior to the start of the war.

On two more specific economic issues -- taxes and the federal budget -- Bush's numbers today are about the same as they were in January, when Gallup last measured them. Currently, 52% of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the tax issue, identical to his approval rating on taxes in a Jan. 31-Feb. 2 poll. The most recent reading came after the Senate approved a much smaller tax cut than the president proposed.

Forty-five percent of Americans currently approve of Bush's handling of the federal budget deficit, while 45% disapprove. When last asked in a Jan. 10-12 poll, 43% of Americans approved and 47% disapproved of the way Bush was handling the federal budget.

Is the War Helping Bush's Re-election Fortunes?

The poll finds 51% of registered voters saying they would vote for Bush if he runs for re-election as president in 2004, while 36% say they would support the Democratic Party's candidate. This is a slight improvement for Bush compared with the March 14-15 pre-war poll, at which time Bush (45%) enjoyed only a slight three-point advantage over the "generic" Democratic Party candidate (42%).

Historical Comparison Favors Elder Bush

In 1991, after the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, George H.W. Bush saw his job approval rating rise from 64% to 82%, an 18-point gain, compared with his son's 13-point gain (as can be seen, the elder Bush's pre-war rating was higher than the current president's). Ratings of how the elder Bush was handling the situation in the Persian Gulf also spiked after the war started, from 62% in a Jan. 11-13, 1991, poll to 86% in a Jan. 17-20 poll. This 24-point gain compares favorably with the younger Bush's 15-point increase on the Iraq issue in the current conflict. Again, the elder Bush had a higher initial approval rating on the Iraq situation than did his son.

There is evidence that the former President Bush's ratings on the economy and foreign affairs also benefited from a war rally. In October 1990, 30% of Americans approved of Bush's handling of the economy and 61% approved of his handling of foreign affairs. These measures were updated in early March 1991, after the conclusion of the war, and showed 37% approving of Bush on the economy and 79% of his handling foreign affairs. Given the time between these measurements, it is possible the rally effect was even greater than what these numbers indicate.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 29-30, 2003. 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.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

 


Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003

2003 Mar 29-30

71

26

3

2003 Mar 24-25

69

27

4

2003 Mar 22-23

71

25

4

2003 Mar 14-15

58

38

4

2003 Mar 3-5

57

37

6

2003 Feb 24-26

57

37

6

2003 Feb 17-19

58

37

5

2003 Feb 7-9

61

34

5

2003 Feb 3-6

59

35

6

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

61

35

4

2003 Jan 23-25

60

36

4

2003 Jan 20-22

58

36

6

2003 Jan 13-16

61

34

5

2003 Jan 10-12

58

37

5

2003 Jan 3-5

63

32

5

2002

2002 Dec 19-22

61

32

7

2002 Dec 16-17

63

33

4

2002 Dec 9-10

63

32

5

2002 Dec 5-8

64

29

7

2002 Nov 22-24

65

28

7

2002 Nov 11-14

66

26

8

2002 Nov 8-10

68

27

5

2002 Oct 31-Nov 3

63

29

8

2002 Oct 21-22

67

28

5

2002 Oct 14-17

62

31

7

2002 Oct 3-6

67

28

5

2002 Sep 23-26

68

26

6

2002 Sep 20-22

66

30

4

2002 Sep 13-16

70

26

4

2002 Sep 5-8

66

30

4

2002 Sep 2-4

66

29

5

2002 Aug 19-21

65

28

7

2002 Aug 5-8

68

26

6

2002 Jul 29-31

71

23

6

2002 Jul 26-28

69

26

5

2002 Jul 22-24

69

24

7

2002 Jul 9-11

73

21

6

2002 Jul 5-8

76

18

6

2002 Jun 28-30

76

19

5

2002 Jun 21-23

73

21

6

2002 Jun 17-19

74

20

6

2002 Jun 7-8

74

18

8

2002 Jun 3-6

70

23

7

2002 May 28-29

77

17

6

2002 May 20-22

76

17

7

2002 May 6-9

76

19

5

2002 Apr 29-May 1

77

20

3

2002 Apr 22-24

77

17

6

2002 Apr 8-11

75

20

5

2002 Apr 5-7

76

19

5

2002 Mar 22-24

79

17

4

2002 Mar 18-20

79

16

5

2002 Mar 8-9

80

14

6

2002 Mar 4-7

77

18

5

2002 Mar 1-3

81

14

5

2002 Feb 8-10

82

14

4

2002 Feb 4-6

82

14

4

2002 Jan 25-27

84

13

3

2002 Jan 11-14

83

13

4

2002 Jan 7-9

84

12

4

2001

2001 Dec 14-16

86

11

3

2001 Dec 6-9

86

10

4

2001 Nov 26-27

87

8

5

2001 Nov 8-11

87

9

4

2001 Nov 2-4

87

9

4

2001 Oct 19-21

88

9

3

2001 Oct 11-14

89

8

3

2001 Oct 5-6

87

10

3

2001 Sep 21-22

90

6

4

2001 Sep 14-15

86

10

4

2001 Sep 7-10

51

39

10

2001 Aug 24-26

55

36

9

2001 Aug 16-19

57

34

9

2001 Aug 10-12

57

35

8

2001 Aug 3-5

55

35

10

2001 Jul 19-22

56

33

11

2001 Jul 10-11

57

35

8

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

52

34

14

2001 Jun 11-17

55

33

12

2001 Jun 8-10

55

35

10

2001 May 18-20

56

36

8

2001 May 10-14

56

31

13

2001 May 7-9

53

33

14

2001 Apr 20-22

62

29

9

2001 Apr 6-8

59

30

11

2001 Mar 26-28

53

29

18

2001 Mar 9-11

58

29

13

2001 Mar 5-7

63

22

15

2001 Feb 19-21

62

21

17

2001 Feb 9-11

57

25

18

2001 Feb 1-4

57

25

18



.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

  1. The economy

 


Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003

2003 Mar 29-30

49

47

4

2003 Mar 24-25

52

42

6

2003 Mar 14-15

44

52

4

2003 Feb 3-6

44

52

4

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

47

48

5

2003 Jan 23-25

46

49

5

2003 Jan 10-12

48

47

5

2003 Jan 3-5

49

47

4

2002

2002 Dec 9-10

49

47

4

2002 Nov 8-10

55

39

6

2002 Oct 21-22

49

44

7

2002 Jul 26-28

52

43

5

2002 Jul 5-8

58

36

6

2002 Jun 28-30

63

33

4

2002 May 20-22

61

29

10

2002 Apr 5-7 ^

60

33

7

2002 Mar 22-24

65

29

6

2002 Mar 1-3

64

31

5

2002 Feb 4-6

66

30

4

2002 Jan 25-27

64

30

6

2001

2001 Nov 2-4 ^

71

24

5

2001 Oct 5-6

72

23

5

2001 Jul 10-11

54

36

10

2001 May 18-20

51

41

8

2001 Apr 20-22 ^

55

38

7

2001 Mar 9-11

55

32

13

2001 Feb 1-4

53

27

20

^ Asked of half sample.



B. Foreign affairs

 


Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003

2003 Mar 29-30

64

31

5

2003 Mar 24-25

65

30

5

2003 Mar 14-15

53

43

4

2003 Feb 3-6

49

46

5

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

57

39

4

2003 Jan 23-25

50

45

5

2003 Jan 10-12

53

42

5

2003 Jan 3-5

60

35

5

2002

2002 Dec 9-10

59

35

6

2002 Nov 8-10

59

36

5

2002 Oct 21-22

58

35

7

2002 Jul 26-28

63

30

7

2002 Jul 5-8

71

25

4

2002 Jun 28-30

66

27

7

2002 May 20-22

70

23

7

2002 Apr 5-7 ^

70

24

6

2002 Mar 22-24

71

22

7

2002 Mar 1-3

78

17

5

2002 Feb 4-6

79

16

5

2002 Jan 25-27

83

14

3

2001

2001 Oct 5-6

81

14

5

2001 Jul 10-11

54

33

13

2001 May 18-20

55

35

10

2001 Apr 20-22 ^

56

31

13

2001 Mar 9-11

52

27

21

2001 Feb 1-4

46

21

33

^ Asked of half sample.



 

C. The situation with Iraq

 

Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Mar 29-30

71

27

2

2003 Mar 24-25

71

26

3

2003 Mar 14-15

56

41

3

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

54

42

4

2003 Jan 3-5

55

40

5

2002 Dec 9-10

55

39

6

2002 Oct 21-22

52

40

8



D. Taxes

 

Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Mar 29-30

52

41

7

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

52

42

6

2003 Jan 10-12

49

45

6

2002 Mar 22-24 ^

64

29

7

2001 Jul 10-11

60

33

7

2001 Apr 20-22 ^

54

39

7

2001 Mar 9-11

56

35

9

^ Asked of half sample.



E. The federal budget deficit

 

Approve

Dis-
approve

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Mar 29-30

45

45

10

2003 Jan 10-12 ^

43

47

10

2002 Mar 22-24 ^ †

51

37

12

2001 Apr 20-22 ^

52

37

11

^ WORDING: The federal budget

† Asked of half sample.



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