by Mark Silva
At the end of this month – assuming that President Bush’s public job approval doesn’t jump from its current trough of 32 percent to 40 percent or higher – the second-term leader will surpass former President Richard Nixon in the number of months running with a sub-40 percent rating.
That will catapult Bush into second place for this dubious honor in the Gallup Poll’s post World War II-tracking of presidential approval ratings.
But Bush will have to fend off most of the public's approval for much of the rest of his term to make No. 1. That top, or bottom, honor belongs to President Harry Truman, whose public approval hovered below 40 percent in the Gallup Poll from October 1950 to December 1952 – for 26 consecutive months.
Bush’s approval rating has hovered below 40 since September 2006 – matching Nixon’s 13 months (from July 1973 until his resignation from the presidency in August 1974).
The president, whose approval stood at 32 percent in the latest Gallup Poll – in a survey of Americans taken Nov. 11-14 – stands only marginally higher than Congress in this regard. The public’s approval for Congress stood at just 20 percent in that survey.
In his most recent quarter in office, Bush averaged 33.2 percent in job approval, the second lowest quarterly average of his presidency – yet an improvement over the previous quarter’s average of 31.8 percent, which indeed ranked as the lowest period of his administration.
Among the 248 quarters that Gallup has measured since this work began after the last World War, only 18 have scored lower than Bush’s last quarter.
Over the course of his entire presidency, Bush’s public approval has averaged 52.2 percent, which places him in the middle of the post-World War II presidential pack.
That’s because Bush’s popularity soared to 90 percent in the Gallup Poll in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
His first term average was better than most presidents, 62.2 percent.
Yet his slumping approval in his second term – averaging 38.8 percent for the term so far – also rivals Truman’s second-term average of 36.5 percent, and the record-low term average of Nixon’s truncated second term, 34.4 percent.
“The trend line on Bush’s quarterly averages throughout his presidency shows most prominently the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which produced a spike in support for him,’’ Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones has reported. “The events surrounding the attacks led to him receiving some of the highest approval ratings in Gallup polling history. Since then, his average approval rating has declined nearly every quarter. In fact, the most recent quarter is only the second time in his second term as president that his quarterly average did not decline from the prior quarter.
“Bush’s second term in office has been a difficult one for him, due in large part to the ongoing war in Iraq,’’ Jones reports. “He has averaged a 38.8% approval rating in his second term so far, which threatens Truman (36.5% in his second term) and Nixon (34.4% in his truncated second term) for the lowest average in any presidential term since World War II.’’