President Bush is nearing what may be a new distinction: an historic 45-point spread between the voters who give his performance a thumbs down and those who are still giving him a thumbs up.
Though this may be an arcane calculation, it's interesting to ponder.
At one moment in his presidency, Richard Nixon registered 66% disapproval rating from voters, against a 24% approval, for a 42-point differential.
Harry Truman, often derided by critics, experienced a range of 43 points between the disapproval and approval numbers.
Santi Tafarella, who blogs at Prometheus Unbound, looked at years of the numbers from the Gallup Poll and concluded that George W. Bush has passed Nixon and Truman to become the president with the widest spread. As is apparent from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research's chart above, at the moment, the president's disapproval ratings are at 70%, while only 25% gave him positive marks. Which would give him an historic margin of 45 points.
At the University of Connecticut, where Roper is headquartered, political scientists were unsure what to make of the finding. Howard Reiter, who has been tracking Bush's popularity ratings since he took office, marvels that "if you didn’t know anything that happened during the Bush administration" you could look at the chart and figure it out. There's a spike of approval after 9/11, a dip after Hurricane Katrina, and a steady downward trend ever since.
The Bush popularity chart also is a template for larger presidential trends, said Reiter, noting that "the longer presidents are in office, the more people they offend. People get tired of them." Especially after two terms.
Presidents at the end of two terms often get what he called "a nostalgia" effect, where voters forgive them their lapses and wish them well as they leave town. But given the financial crisis, Bush "is not even enjoying that now."
-- Johanna Neuman