Voters Upbeat on Change, Downbeat on Bush

Posted January 18, 2008 at 3:06pm

The most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Jan. 10-13 and released today, finds that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are equally likely to believe that Obama and Clinton are committed to changing Washington. Democratic voters believe the candidates are either very committed or somewhat committed to “bringing about real change in Washington” in high numbers, with Clinton earning 89 percent and Obama 88 percent of those responses.

Among a sample of all Americans, Democratic and Republican, Gallup also asked whether the two leading Democratic candidates and the two leading Republican candidates — McCain and Huckabee — could bring about change if elected president. McCain (59 percent) falls between Obama (61 percent) and Clinton (57 percent), but nearly the same number of people are pessimistic (47 percent) about Huckabee’s ability to bring change as are optimistic (46 percent) about it.

The margin of error for all adult respondents in the sample is ‘2 percentage points, and the margin of error for the sample of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents is ‘3 percentage points.

Obama and Clinton — not to mention third-place John Edwards — are competing fiercely to be considered the candidate of “change.” While in some early exit polls Obama has been faring best among voters who are most interested in change, these data suggest that most Democrats believe Clinton is as committed to changing Washington as Obama, and that Obama is as capable of delivering change as Clinton. But Americans — including a slim majority of Democrats — believe Republican John McCain could change Washington as well.

And it’s no surprise that the ability to effect change is important to voters looking to replace the current resident of the White House. President Bush’s 33.3 percent average approval rating for 2007, as compiled by Gallup, is his lowest yearly average. His most recent approval rating, 34 percent, is considerably lower than the high ratings he had in polls from his first two years in office. After approval ratings around 70 percent in 2001 and 2002, Bush’s ratings have shown consistent declines that have shaved nearly 40 percent off of his popularity. The 2007 average is not only the lowest of Bush’s presidency, but it is one of the lowest of all time since 1945, when Gallup began tracking presidential approval — he is “bested” only by Richard Nixon’s approval scores immediately preceding his resignation and Harry Truman’s during the Korean War.

“Bush averaged 62.2% approval for his first four years in office, one of the better term averages since World War II. His average approval rating in his second term so far is 38.8%, which would be one of the worst.” Compared to the other four presidents since World War II who have served a seventh year, Bush falls with Truman (26.5 percent) to the unpopular end of the spectrum, while Dwight Eisenhower (63.9) and Bill Clinton (60.5) enjoyed high approval. Ronald Reagan, the other president in this group had an approval of 48.2 percent.