Bush Now Least Popular President Since Polling Began

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:42


Not sure how I missed this yesterday, but with the new Gallup poll, George W. Bush has passed Nixon and Truman, and become the least popular President of all-time. According to the Roper Center, here is the worst net approval / disapproval result for every President in the Gallup poll since it began public polling in the late 1930's:

President Low Approval High Disapproval High Margin
Bush 2 25 70 -45
Clinton 36 50 -14
Bush 1 29 60 -31
Reagan 35 56 -21
Carter 28 59 -31
Ford 39 45 -6
Nixon 24 66 -42
Johnson 35 52 -16
Kennedy 56 30 +26
Eisenhower 48 36 +12
Truman 22 65 -43
FDR 48 43 +5

Bush has both the highest overall disapproval, and the lowest overall net approval / disapproval in any Gallup poll taken, ever. Keep in mind that this is a poll that has been functioning for more than 71 years. Also, it should be noted that it is possible that President Taft, who only received 23% of the vote in his 1912 re-election campaign, was more unpopular than Bush, but there weren't public polls back then.

The whole thing makes you long after a parliamentary system of government. That we have been forced to put up with Bush despite his low disapproval for so long strikes me as a flaw in our electoral system.

Chris Bowers :: Bush Now Least Popular President Since Polling Began

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there's your legacy, W. (4.00 / 1)
one other interesting observation: Reagan and Clinton's numbers are surprisingly similar.

I think most people assume Reagan was far more popular than Clinton. Heck, especially today, the loudmouths in the media paint the picture that while Reagan had a few critics, Clinton was hated by everyone except for the extreme liberal left. The stats don't lie, however.


McCain Campaign (0.00 / 0)
After watching Palin's and McCains's rallys yesterday where they both went on the attack against Obams, I am really, really scared.  Telling crowds of right wing Republicans that Obama is "palling" around with terrorists and that he is dangerous is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  There were people in the crowd yelling "terrorist" and "kill him."  I have a terrible fear that McCain and Palin know what they are doing to the nuts out there and are willing to put Obama's life in danger to win an election.  In fact, that might be their path to the White House - let's stir up the crazies out there and make them think that we really mean all of these things we are saying and maybe one of them will kill Obama.  If that happens, this country will erupt.  Has McCain lost his mind here?                                          

I certainly don't think they WANT anyone to attack Obama physically (0.00 / 0)
That's an awfully extreme thing to accuse someone of doing deliberately.

Although the best one can say about the crap that McCain and Palin are throwing out there now is that it's extremely irresponsible.  


[ Parent ]
Kinda like the talk radio commentators (0.00 / 0)
in Rwanda.  They didn't necessarily WANT to provoke a genocide, they were just speaking irresponsibly. The fact that some of their listeners took matters into their own hands is not REALLY their fault, is it?


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
total recall (0.00 / 0)
Yeah, either a parliamentary system or even just the ability to recall unpopular Presidents would be an improvement.

I'm not so sure (0.00 / 0)
Various parliamentary systems definitely have their own problems, and recalls can end up being pretty farcical, like when Schwarzenegger was first elected in California.  Every system has its pluses and minuses.

[ Parent ]
Agreed... (0.00 / 0)
Being from a country that has a parliamentary system (Canada) I think I would choose the stability of the US system over the gratification of bringing down a weak/unpopular leader after a short time in office.  Having elections every two years, as has been the case in Canada recently, does not lead to effective governance.  

I would, however, be in support of a system that makes the President have to defend his/her policies in front of the house of reps on a daily basis.  That would be fun, just as it is at home and in Britain.  


[ Parent ]
I don't agree (0.00 / 0)
I think having a few extra elections is small price to pay to avoid having a head-of-government so universally loathed.  I don't really get why Canadians complain about frequent elections - it's not like it's really that cumbersome a burden.  Even the cost is not so bad in the grand scheme.

I mean should we have given Stephen Harper a majority in 2006 just to avoid having this election now?  

The nice thing too, is that even under a majority, if the PM loses the support of his party he can be swapped out.  The Republicans most certainly would have swapped out Bush after 2006, and at least America would have a chief executive who was not known to be unworthy of the office by 70% of the country.


[ Parent ]
Parliamentary systems and unpopular leaders (4.00 / 2)
Countries that are governed by parliaments don't necessarily throw off unpopular leaders so easily.  How long has Bush been around or below 30% in approval, about two years now?  Ehud Olmert in Israel managed to hang around for that long in the PM office despite having approval numbers even lower than that.

Also, how bad were Blair's numbers for his last few years in office?  Even majority parties in parliamentary systems are often very slow, if not completly unwilling, to dump unpopular leaders.


Olmert had about 1% approval (0.00 / 0)
Just after the incursions into Lebanon, polling found his approval rating within the margin of error.

Not sure about Blair - we tend to get less polling information in the UK and the most common number given is intention to vote in the next election. Blair wasn't particularly well liked from about 1998 onwards and was hated by many from the Iraq war onwards, but we only saw the decisive change when the Conservatives managed to rebrand themselves.

That said, I don't really see what you're getting at. Sure, it may not necessarily be quicker to get rid of an unpopular leader in a parliamentary system, but it often is. In the two examples you gave, Olmert's coalition stayed because none of the coalition partners wished to have an election, believing that Likud would win (and since Israel uses list-based proportional representation, party die-hards the only people who become MPs), whilst Blair's survival rested on a) the Labour soft left still being crouched in the foetal position after 15 years of assault from Blair, b) the unwillingness of the Brownite faction to engineer a coup until it became obvious that that was the only way to shift Blair and c) plenty of Labour MPs being too dumb to prioritise their chances of re-election above being on the good side of the party whips.

These situations do not automatically apply.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog


[ Parent ]
I think you're making my point for me (4.00 / 1)
Which is that national unpopularity does not necessarily lead to a change at the top in a parliamentary system.  MKs will always have various incentives acting on them aside from the approval rating of the national leader, some of which might be in direct conflict with it.

Overall, my point is that Chris's yearning for a mechanism for dumping a national leader with horrible approval ratings carries some baggage with it, namely that (a) it doesn't always work out that way even in parliamentary systems, and (b) those systems have some of their own negative traits that the US system manages to avoid.


[ Parent ]
Japan, Italy (4.00 / 1)
Or we could end up with a parliamentary system like Italy or Japan with a continual revolving that still recycles corruption like Berlusconi.

Or we could have had a parl. system since, say Kennedy, and every President since then would have had poll numbers suggesting they should be sacked.

If you don't like the President, and you vote in a district with a Congressional enabler of that President, then you work to oust the enabler and Congress checks the idiocy of the President.  That's the beauty of our system, but it doesn't work if people don't pay attention and fulfill their duties as citizens.

A fixed term also allows a President to repair his image and convince the public he is right.  Obama may be happy about this if he chooses some progressive policy.  For example, let's say he decides to attack Wall St. with antitrust regulations and break up those that are too big to fail.  Every rich person and business in America (except 3) are going to go after him, as is the media.  Over time he might be proven right. In a parl. system, the media and corp. America would bring him down with bad press and the reform would die an ignominious death.

Johnson supporting Civil Rights legislation is a good example too.

I like our system, I don't like 45% voter turn out.


[ Parent ]
Makes me long for an Impeachment Trial (4.00 / 1)
but the "leaders" of the Democratic Party took that option off the table years ago.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


Well, then Bob Kelleher is your guy! (0.00 / 0)
The whole thing makes you long after a parliamentary system of government. That we have been forced to put up with Bush despite his low disapproval for so long strikes me as a flaw in our electoral system.

Well, then you need to support Bob Kelleher for the U.S. Senate.  You know, the guy who's running against Max Baucus?  He believes in a parliamentary system.  

For more than four decades, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Bob Kelleher has pursued a peculiar political passion: an American parliament.

Kelleher argues that dozens of countries, including some former Soviet bloc nations, boast higher standards of living for their people, more progressive social policies and a government unburdened by the enormous power of lobbying.

Their secret, he said, lies in their form of government: They all have parliaments. If America wants to emulate their success, Kelleher said, we ought to have a parliament, too.
Kelleher, who's run as a candidate on this platform for 44 years and lost 14 times under Democratic, Green Party and Republican banners, finally won one this June: He snatched a surprise victory in the Republican U.S. Senate primary race.

[Full disclosure: My firm built Max Baucus's campaign website, but I speak only for myself.]


One nice thing about parliamentary systems (0.00 / 0)
They become dictatorships less often than Presidentials.

I kind of like the Irish model, where they have a figure head President, so the head-of-state is apolitical and everyone can approve of them, which also detaches all the silly baggage of "don't criticize the commander in chief in a time of war!" crap when the President is making terrible decisions.

There's many good reasons why the commander in chief should be a non-partisan figurehead, leaving the exercise of authority in political hands.


Pollkatz (0.00 / 0)
Although Bush's approval ratings varied from the very low 50s to a high of 71 following 9/11, he consistently polled over 50% from March 1,2001 through February 1, 2004.  In the four and a half years since then, W has only polled over 50% three times: 11/15/04, 12/1/04 and 1/15/05.

Katrina pushed him under 45% and he's stayed there sinking under 35% following the 2006 elections (and staying there) and under 30% since this March.

First off, Rove did a heckuva job (Brownie) selling this turkey to the American public in 2004. He'd been down and stayed down for nine months and there was no news or policy event to push him up off the canvas.  The turn out was high.  Everybody has an opinion on the man and somehow he managed to turn 5% of the population around on a bunch of nonsense.

Second, Bush's lows are higher than either Nixon's or Truman's but the undecideds are only 5%.  Pretty remarkable and easily the smallest on this list.  Americans have made up their minds on this guy (which makes Rove's feat more remarkable).

Third, as the financial mess oozes out and the economy sours, he could be headed even further down (20 vs. 75, say) and remove all doubt by having lower approval ratings than either Nixon or Truman.  What are that 25% taking to stay this course?

The straight line nature of his Presidency is truly remarkable.  And rancid.


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