When the trend is not your friend

All polls, Presidential Approval Rating
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When the trend is not your friend: Do not catch a falling knife !


The Wall Street Journal (free) looks at the most recent Presidential polling data:

"President Bush and fellow Republicans approach the fall midterm elections facing one political problem above all others: responding to rising public anxiety about Iraq.

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll charts the toll that Iraq has taken on the Bush presidency. The survey shows the president’s approval rating falling to 37%, a low for Mr. Bush, with disapproval highest for his handling of the war. His party’s advantage on handling Iraq has narrowed amid public pessimism about the conflict, helping Democrats open a double-digit edge in voter preferences for controlling Congress.

"At this point in the administration there’s one thing that counts, and it’s the war in Iraq," says Democrat pollster Peter Hart, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. The war, adds his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff, "is enveloping this presidency." (emphasis added)

Note that both the Republican AND Democratic strategists buy into the War as a catchall blame for the poor polling.

I don’t buy it.

This has yet to become conventional
wisdom, but I suspect much of the upswing in negativity about the
President is in large part traceable to the Katrina debacle; It has
bled over to every other category, from the Iraq war to Homeland
Security to the Economy.

Barron’s comes to a similiar — even broader — conclusion; they do not buy into the Iraq War rationale for the poor polling results:

President Bush’s job approval rating sank to 37% in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and has been mired below 40% since last October, the longest stretch of readings that low for a president since the dismal days of the late ‘Seventies.

The obvious reason for this divergence of the stock market and the public’s assessment of Bush is Iraq, which seems only to go from bad to worse. Well, maybe it’s not just Iraq. There’s the flap over the aborted Dubai Ports deal, post-Katrina ineptitude, Dick Cheney’s winging his hunting companion, the furor over wiretapping without warrants, Social Security reform, budget deficits, trade deficits, the unintelligible Medicare drug plan…enough already, you get the picture. 

Indeed, only 29% of Republicans deemed the Bush White House to be "very competent," according to the WSJ/NBC News poll.  (emphasis added)

I think Barron’s is on to something — its more than merely the Wartime Blues impacting the  White House — its  a broad variety of issues.



Good news/Bad news: Once a President no longer gets the benefit of the
doubt from the electorate — which Bush enjoyed with regards to 9/11
and Iraq WMD — he becomes a lame duck.

More from Barron’s:

"It makes one shudder to think where Bush’s numbers would be if the
current Goldilocks economy turns out to be a fairy tale. Say, if the
labor market starts to weaken. (Hmmm, initial claims for unemployment
insurance have ticked up the past three weeks.) Or the real-estate
market starts to crack. (Housing starts are slumping along with
mortgage applications, while the supply of unsold homes is building and
mortgage delinquencies are on the rise.) Or if there were a major
corporate bankruptcy. (General Motors says it lost $2 billion in 2005,
more than it previously reported.) If something really bad happened on
the economic front, Dubya’s numbers would be down around the level of
Japanese interest rates."

Well, the good news is that Presidential approval is hardly correlated as a cause of positive market performance . . .


Growing Anxiety About Iraq Threatens Republicans
Bush Approval Rating Hits A Low as War Pessimism Offers Edge for Democrats
WSJ, March 16, 2006; Page A4

Dow and Dubya Diverge
Randall W. Forsyth
Barron’s, MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2006

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Gary Anderson commented on Mar 18

    I agree that the incompetance, the ongoing incompetance regarding Katrina is a major force in the majority abandoning Bush. But the root of Bush’s problem is that he is perceived as a liar. I personally do not believe that he has bad intentions, but I do believe that he is not honest regarding his intentions. People thought George Bush was above politics, a man of conviction. Well, Dubai, the leak of the CIA cover, the statement that victory was ours in Iraq years ago, the statement that Iraq was as important as World War 2, and other misstatements have been viewed by many as smoke, lies and unsubstantiated garbage.

    We have tuned George W out, because we cannot tell when he is telling the truth or when it is just spin. We know that Carl Rove is a cutthroat and we know that Cheney cannot shoot straight with regard to his involvement in Iraq as a means to bail out Haliburton. We think that maybe Cheney was unprincipled, and that he influenced George W. too much, especially now that we know Cheney could care less what Bush or anyone thought regarding the bird hunt. So, Bush is looking at impeachment, and it will be the Democratic house that will determine this. Bush has made few friends, so maybe he needs to try playing by the rules for a change. Gary

  2. brian commented on Mar 18

    I personally believe the Bush League have *good* intentions. As in, “the road to hell is paved with…” The -Debacle Presidency- has a nice ring to it though I still prefer the Propaganda Presidency. It neatly sums up the neo-con modus operandi. “Just LIE baby!” Say anything-Hide everything-Leave nothing behind. See ya at the next Town Hall patriots.

  3. Uncle Jack commented on Mar 18

    I agree with you, Barry. I don’t buy the “cause” as attributable solely to Iraq, and if you are correct in your call of the indices dropping this year, a resumption of the secular bear, then you’re going to see Bush’s approval ratings take out the record low of 29% set by Carter.

    Wasn’t it during the ’92 election that the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” came to life?

  4. Idaho_Spud commented on Mar 18

    Barry – “Why do you hate America?” :)

  5. JWC commented on Mar 18

    Wow. Great post. Competence is the operative word.

    Kudlow the other day said something along the lines of “what does the president need to do to get credit for the wonderful economy?”. I about choked.

    Even Barron’s says it is possible this economy might just be a fairy tale. I agree with Kudlow, if you are in the top % income wise this is a great economy. If you have no worried about your job, your health care coverage is good, you have plenty of money to send your kids to college, and are enjoying your tax cuts, this is a wonderful time.

    I suspect Barry is doing just fine financially, as well as most of the readers of this blog. I have ultimate respect for those who are in that position and still are capable of seeing what is happening, or might happen, to that vast number of people who are NOT in the top 10%. I am not worried about my future. Except for huge increases in the our share of health insurance premiumns, and an increase in groceries and gas, very little of the problems will effect me personally.

    That said, I worry about my kids and grandkids. My SIL’s business just went bankrupt. He has a great education but jobs don’t seem to be that easy to find. College for those three grandkids doesn’t look as easy as it did a few months ago.

    My son, in his blue collar job, struggles to keep up financially. I have been setting aside a little here and there to help if his child wants to go to college, but it will be tough.

    I’m too wordy this morning. But this post really struck me.

  6. Tom commented on Mar 18

    Iraq & Katrina (incompetence), Michael Brown & Harriet Miers (Cronyism), Republican corruption and Pork spending, wiretapping flap, Medicare problems (incompetence), Dubai Ports deal, etc. I think the cumulative weight of these and other issues has tipped the balance. If these other issues did not exist, the public would be cutting him much more slack on Iraq. My view is a lot of people formerly beleived Shrub was doing a decent/ok job with Iraq being the exception. Now, I think the public believes Iraq-like incompetence is the rule, consistent with all of the above-mentioned problems, rather than the exception.

    Iraq has taken on increased importance for Bush. If Iraq descends into chaos/civil war, then it is over for him. When the keystone falls, the structure will crumble. The country would know that the centerpiece of Bush’s re-election campaign and reason for voting for him had disintegrated. Right now, there is still hope that Iraq will evolve into a democracy with good long-term prospects, although many doubt that it will. If that hope is extinguished, it will be really ugly.

  7. tony commented on Mar 18

    Blabbermouth Barrons…let the neocons believe it’s only Iraq that matters. Why does Barrons need to blabbermouth to everybody?…now Karl Rove will just find a way to blame everything on Liberals and it will all start over again.

  8. donna commented on Mar 18

    I think Bush is just totally incompetent, and any look at his record over his entire life would have shown anyone that who was paying attention in 2000. In this case, past performance certainly did indicate future performance.

  9. wcw commented on Mar 18

    Surprised you didn’t point out the Pew numbers that came out recently. Cf http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=271

    “President Bush’s declining image also is reflected in the single-word descriptions people use to describe their impression of the president. Three years ago, positive one-word descriptions of Bush far outnumbered negative ones. Over the past two years, the positive-negative balance has been roughly equal. But the one-word characterizations have turned decidedly negative since last July.”

    Katrina, however, did not hit until last August, so either this isn’t the coincident indicator as which I see it, or something else precipitated the real decline into current popular opinion.

    Rather than look for a single causal event, perhaps last July things simply started adding up, from Iraq to the Plame leak.

    Or maybe it was Bush’s July 8 bicycle collision with a policeman. Yeah, that’s it!


  10. EMD commented on Mar 18

    W lost me at “Dubai”

  11. B commented on Mar 18

    I think there is a general trend of opinion here. Our values are laughable as a whole.

    We worship professional athletes, movie stars and entertainers even though their cumulative IQ isn’t enough to power a light bulb. We care only about money and thus our kids only want to have a career where they get rich….because they get validation from us. Then we elect the consumate reflection of ourselves every four years and let the corporate crooks and special interests line their pockets. Then, because we allow it, they retire from public office and go to work as lobbyist in the never ending cycle of quid pro quo. More aptly put as I line your pockets then later on you’ll line mine because that is the way the system works. Then all we do is bitch about it and turn around to elect the same types again and again and again. Democrats, Republicans….it doesn’t matter. They are all the same.

  12. calmo commented on Mar 18

    It’s a real puzzle for the media –as perfectly illustrated by Chris Mathews who nearly tearfuly asks ” How can the President be doing this badly in the polls?”
    Like aren’t people paying attention to Chris? Don’t the polls show that people are watching Mathews? So, are they throwing pop-corn at the set or what?
    The media is in denial about the apparent failure of their publicity campaign. Surely the Diebold solution cannot be far behind in making the proper adjustments to these polling numbers. The Mathews (and chums) solutions haven’t cut the mustard so far and I don’t know if the public could stand Mathews opening crying about it, you?

  13. Ned commented on Mar 18

    that last post is dark and carries a lot of cynical truths.
    I wish I could say none of it were true, but I can’t.
    From the movie stars to the lobbyists, it seems the giant corporate media machine has us all focused in the wrong direction. Maybe bloggers can aim us right again?

  14. cm commented on Mar 18

    I think B comes closest. As evidenced by trends in almost every area of society/economy, the nation is not on a good track, and people are quite good at sensing that, if ever so subconsciously. This doesn’t require realizing what specifically is at ill, it’s enough to get a generally queasy feeling from a sum of small, and individually quite insignificant, things. In a way a perpetual (low-intensity?) disappointment with how things are going.

    The big screw-ups are to an extent merely the more visible things that are used to channel and trigger the blame.

  15. James Cameron commented on Mar 18

    “This has yet to become conventional wisdom, but I suspect much of the upswing in negativity about the President is in large part traceable to the Katrina debacle; It has bled over to every other category, from the Iraq war to Homeland Security to the Economy.”

    The sinking poll numbers are a direct result of what seems to be a continuous litany of news that has only served to reinforce people’s view that the administration is both incompetent and dishonest: Iraq, Katrina, Dick Cheney, the port debacle, Supreme Court miscues, airport (in)security revelations, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, out of control deficit spending, entitlement program debacles, ad nauseam, ad nauseam.

    Iraq and Katrina have become just part of the story at this point. That said, if the administration could provide clear evidence that Iraq was actually turning around they would probably receive a sustainable bump in the polls. Right now that doesn’t look to be in the cards, at least for the midterms.

  16. Gary Anderson commented on Mar 18

    Tom, I was surprised at Bush openly speaking about propaganda. Take as an example of propaganda the equation of Iraq with WW2. No one really believes that George W believes that. It just sounds like he was convinced by that dog Rove that the Americans just might buy it! This is such an insult to the American people. I don’t know how the President can look himself in the mirror after such a blatant lie and after such an insult to those who fought in WW2 .

    And I do believe as other posters here have said, Katrina response was so incompetent and continues to be so incompetent that we must think that George W must be likewise overwhelmed in Iraq as he is with Katrina.

    As a side note, if you look up “incompetent” on Google the first listing is the biography of Pres Bush. How cute and how appropriate.

  17. Gary Anderson commented on Mar 18

    Sorry, that biography was found on Yahoo. But on Google some comments on Bush are number one for that search word as well!

  18. brian commented on Mar 18

    Hmm. yeah equating iraq and our glorious WWII victory (how Soviet!) was pretty pathetic.
    But like *everything* W. and the neo-con artists (sounds like a punk band–which i suppose it is..) have touched, Iraq too will turn to Total crap. There will be civil war and eventual partition. Count on it. (iraqis looked into the abyss and stepped back from the brink my ass! The factions are arming themselves and making political/strategic alliances in the Arab/Pushtun world as the case may be thanks to
    President Pandora

  19. Uncle Bob commented on Mar 18

    Just imagine what this administration would have been like without 9/11. Maybe the bin-laden got the biggest reward of his life by saddling us with Bush forhis full 8 years. Without 9/11, bush would have been voted out. Katrina is not the reason Bush is rated so poorly, Katrina is the window that we are finally looking at this mess through. I was listening to an NPR show yesterday and the hostess tried to interest some national reporters on the national debt being $30000 per person in the US but no one was interested because it is meaningless to assume we’ll have to pay it off as individuals, but what is meaningful is the idea that we have to pay the interest as individuals, which comes out to be around $1500/year per person. If you have a family of 4, that’s a $6k/year burden. And remember, corporations don’t pay taxes, they collect them. So I think people are saying WTF, Randy Cunningham gets to collect his pension and we can’t afford to support our local infrastructure and our real estate bubble has inflated property taxes that will not go down when the bubble pops. So folks are looking through the window that couldn’t be fogged over by the administration.

  20. B commented on Mar 18

    It appears everyone forgets about the only poll numbers that are actually worse than the Prez’s. CONGRESS. 33%. The last time they were this low? 1999. The heyday of bubbledom and Pax Americana and we still hated the self-greasing machine. Is it really just Bush? Are such chronically low readings sans those around 9/11 a sign of something deeper? Maybe 9/11 just pre-empted our thinking that the “me me me” decade of the 90s, that still defines the climate in Washington, is now passe. Maybe that decade of greed made us all realize how ugly we could be and, in retrospect, we didn’t like it. Of course, your highly partisan buddy Kudlow says polls, schmolls, we are doing fine cause the stock market is rockin. I guess he’s about to find out how true that statement is.


    I find it rather amusing(less) to see, anecdotally, the problems we’ve created in the “keeping up with the Jones’ mentality”. We have become the Ambien nation on top of already being the Prozac nation. Sleeping disorders are pandemic. Who cares about H5N1? We can’t get any f’ing sleep and this go-go lifestyle is driving us all crazy. And I do believe that as a statement of fact not as a joke. All of this consumption is f’ing exhausting! Hell, we actually have to pay for this shit at some point and that usually involves working well past our stress threshold. Closing the pocketbook and taking a hiatus. And while we are at it, how about a little bit of isolationist military policy or a little of “Walk softly and carry a big stick”. Isn’t it about time for a return to that foreign policy?

  21. camille roy commented on Mar 18

    I think we’ve lost our democracy & become a corporatocracy.

    There is nothing more sinister and disgusting in public life than the charade of Republican ‘values’, whether it is lying to start a war, driving the govt into bankruptcy, trying to destroy the pittance of social security so many depend on, persecuting and silencing govt scientists, and pushing our military into torture.

    I am angry at all Americans that drank the koolaid and supported this clown. You have trully tarnished Christianity and American values, in my view. Only a few short years ago your loud sanctimony and self-satisfaction nearly drowned out any opposing voices. Thanks for playing your part in destroying my future and the future of my family. Thanks for nothing, phonies.

    And the biggest joke of all! These are the rightwing idjits who’ve been preaching for years about ‘individual responsibility’. Hah. Hah. Hah. Now, no matter what they do, no matter what stunning level of incompetence gets reached, no one is fired from this administration. They leave only if they are facing charges or under indictment.

    Family Values!

  22. jcf commented on Mar 18

    Hey, whatever happened to this program?

    WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush next week will lay out his “vision for expanding the space program,” which is expected to include long-term proposals for manned missions to the moon and an eventual manned mission to Mars, senior administration officials say.

    No bids from Halliburton, maybe.

  23. Fred commented on Mar 18

    I’d like to see a pairs trade here. After the sell, what are you going to buy?

  24. DJ commented on Mar 19

    “But the one-word characterizations have turned decidedly negative since last July”

    Bush started tanking hard because he touched the third rail. His big push in 2005 was Social Security. That is when people realized he couldn’t be trusted because, even if they didn’t follow all the details, people realized Bush wanted to end the system as it is known. That is not what people felt they voted for in 2004 and the trust was gone. Then Katrina happened and people questioned his incompetence. Now people are putting the two together in regards to Iraq. But he sealed his own fate when he attacked Social Security.

  25. Mark commented on Mar 19

    I think we have been suckered by bin Laden. He attacked symbols of our economic and military superiority luring us into costly military, political and economic battles that are sapping us of strength on all fronts. Unless we wake up to these realities we will lose. We are fighting the wrong wars.

  26. B commented on Mar 19

    I’m assuming your post is a parody. I do find your post compelling except for one point. That being “Republicans”. I’m sure the Democrats are much better at portraying family values. Maybe you meant Clinton, Kennedy and Carter. The first two banged an unnamed number of women in the White House and the last admitted he lusted after such a thought. Not that we all don’t suffer from the human condition but I find that most people who throw stones do indeed live in glass houses. If you buy the Republican vs Democrat argument, they’ve brainwashed you because they are one in the same. They work in unison to keep the status quo and new parties/new ideas from gaining traction. It is a dysfunctional relationship where both parties feed off of the other to further their own agenda.

  27. jcf commented on Mar 19

    GOP for a while, esp. after Clinton and the exit-door pardons, had the moral high ground. Now that’s been lost with the lies, the Congressional corruption, the obvious absence of compassion in Compassionate Conservatism and Abu Ghraib/Gitmo.
    So who is the Third Party candidate? Colin Powell?

  28. Emmanuel commented on Mar 19

    This is a good one. Maybe it’s time to stock up on JGBs –

    If something really bad happened on the economic front, Dubya’s numbers would be down around the level of Japanese interest rates

  29. brian commented on Mar 19

    GWB is the direct result of the cynical lie that Republicans and Democrats are “all the same”

    Politicains Left&Right need to raise gobs of cash in our present system (publically financed campaigns is the answer here) but when ya get right down to it, Republicans are for the Corporation$-Dems are for the People- Huge difference.

  30. B commented on Mar 19

    Do you believe that? Really? The Democrats are for the people? Do you forget where they get most of their cash? Have they protected your jobs? Raised the average joe’s hourly pay? Protected manufacturing jobs from rolling overseas? Kept corporate criminals from stealing your money? Kept companies from kaboshing their pensions? Provided healthcare to the underprivelaged? Supported fair tax policies? Need I continue?

  31. Gary Anderson commented on Mar 19

    B, people wanted to reign in spending. That is why they threw out the Dems who were spending too much and taxing too much. But what happened was that somewhere along the line, Cheney came to the conclusions that deficits did not matter, and all the work of a split ticket, Clinton and Republican congress were wasted. The Republicans have proven to be Laffer Republicans, and we have a gazillion houses with less than a gazillion people to live in them as the result.

  32. camille roy commented on Mar 20

    I think the Democrats are for a policy that will work and will satisfy constituents. It is not that they are for the people ONLY, it’s that they are a middle of the road party that tries to meet the interests of both business and worker/citizen constituents.

    Clinton showed that this approach can yield a great economy.

    I have read that since Dems value govt, their best go into govt. Since Repubs don’t value govt, indeed regard govt as the problem, it is their incompetents and cronies who go into govt.

    Looking at the thugs, charlatans, wannabe fascists, liars, cheats and idjits who have taken over our government has completely changed my attitude towards the opinion, ‘Government is the problem.’
    I used to regard that as a sincere opinion. I now think it is a “line” used to devalue democracy and citizenship. It’s pablum that the more powerful use to try to persuade the less powerful to give up benefits and rights. Excuse me, but my ancestors fought and died for this GOVERNMENT. Afterall, as citizens we are equal and we have rights, while as workers our rights are greatly diminished relative to the rights of the boss. The bosses who say “Government is the problem” are in general looking for a way out of the obligations a democratic government has bestowed on them, and they are willing to throw cash at our representatives in order to get their way.

  33. jamile commented on Mar 20

    Um, the point of saying the federal government is bad is because they have the exclusive right to throw people in jail or kill them. “Lawmakers”, “military”, “Federal Reserve”. Federal Reserve just prints money, which is the same as stealing it. Wasn’t the Revolutionary War fought to get rid of one government and replace it with next to nothing?

    “way out of the OBLIGATIONS a democratic government has bestowed on them”

    The biggest freedom that any people are born with can’t be protected by some piece of paper called the Constitution (used by toilet paper), but the freedom to walk away (tell the feds to go screw themselves). You should read a little history camille.

    This is probably why no one gives a crap now because it is utterly hopeless now that both Democrats and Republicans are virtually the same.

  34. camille roy commented on Mar 20

    I don’t know how to say this and sound polite, but before conservative nutjobs with baseball bats took over the govt I listened to your sort of drivel with an open mind. But how that the right wing ideological nutjobs took over everything and the best they can do is killing fields in Iraq and death threats to justices, I have just one thing to say:
    You’ve LOST CREDIBILITY over the last 5 years.
    Your team has LOST CREDIBILITY.
    Go away and come up with some new ideas.

  35. jamile commented on Mar 20

    First, I am not anywhere close to a rightwing nut jub. You obviously can’t comprehend a simple paragraph of high school level english (probably lower). You obviously did not infer what was so obvious in the paragraph that I was criticising the institution of the federal government. Let me add that the current president is the worst in many decades. I CLEARLY STATED “Republicans = Democrats”. How you classify me as the same team as conservatives I don’t know, since that would imply “Democrats = Republicans = Conservative” which is clearly false.

    Just ask yourself what is the price of not participating in whatever the federal government does. Just ask yourself what is the difference between voluntary and coerced. And maybe think for a second that some people may not like Democratic policies or Republican policies or both or neither.

    PS I hope you are mentally agile enough to handle the double negative in the last sentence.

  36. banker commented on Mar 20

    Clearly any group of people (<536) who controls $2.6 TRILLION dollars is not going to be clean. I think that says it right there.

  37. anon commented on Mar 20

    Good point banker. It’s funny how government officials are not allowed to accept any type of gratuity including something as simple as a $10 lunch. But the elected officials stuff their pockets will all kinds of dirty money.

  38. penalcolony commented on Mar 20

    I’m with DJ. Bush caused serious erosion in his own support with the assault on Social Security, which he pursued for nearly six months despite the hostile reactions of voters and strenuous behind-the-scenes efforts by the GOP congress to get him to STFU on the subject. Combined with growing impatience with a war we’re obviously not winning, that laid the groundwork for his collapse in the wake of Katrina and all that followed.

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