The public’s dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Republican-led Congress is growing, with ratings dropping amid record high gas prices, war in Iraq, the Social Security debate and the emotional Terri Schiavo case.
The Republican president’s job approval is at 44 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. Only 37 percent have a favorable opinion of the work being done by Congress, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.
Bush’s job approval was at 49 percent in January, the same month in which he was sworn in for a second term, while Congress’ was at 41 percent.
The president was asked Friday about his falling ratings in some polls, and he claimed indifference.
“Some of them were going up the other day,” he responded as he flew back from Rome on Air Force One. “You can find them going up and you can find them going down. You can pretty much find out what you want in polls is my point.”
Asked about Bush’s decline with the public, Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio pointed to uphill efforts to change Social Security, the Schiavo case and “economic jitters” heightened by rising oil prices.
Republicans in Congress and the president moved quickly during the Easter recess to approve legislation intended to prolong the life of Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after her feeding tube was disconnected.
Democrats, whose public standing is pretty close to the Republicans these days, are pondering how to capitalize on the general dissatisfaction among the American people toward Washington.
“I think the Democrats have to be clearer about offering alternatives, not just the critique,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “People already know what the problems are, they want to know the solutions.”
Thomas Johnston, a Democratic retiree from Mooresville, N.C., often doesn’t agree with the positions taken by national Democrats. But he thinks being overly cautious hurts them.
“I think they’re trying to ride the fence and that doesn’t work,” Johnston said. “Say what you believe and stick with it.”
The number supporting Bush’s handling of some domestic issues dipped between March and April, to 42 percent for the economy and 38 percent for issues such as education and health care, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
Support for the president’s approach to his top domestic priority, Social Security, remained at 36 percent, while 58 percent oppose it.
“The public hasn’t bought into the idea of private accounts and the necessity of them,” said Charles Franklin, a political scientist who studies public opinion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Republicans argue that young adults are supposed to benefit the most from Bush’s Social Security proposal, but a majority of that group, 54 percent, opposes the president on that issue.
Denise Brown, a 41-year-old Republican from Prattville, Ala., is among those Bush has yet to convince.
“I’m not sold on it,” she said. “Maybe there haven’t been any alternatives put out there. Something definitely needs to be done, but there are probably other ways to do it that may be better.”
While Democrats firmly disapprove of Bush’s job performance and independents lean toward disapproval, Republicans remain firmly behind him.
“I don’t know that the exit strategy in Iraq is completely thought out. And I don’t know that all the Social Security options have been explored,” said Scott Lindsey, a Republican who lives around Memphis, Tenn. “But I think President Bush is doing a good job.”
The president’s poll standing has been in the mid-40s to low-50s for the past two years, said Matthew Dowd, who was a strategist and pollster for Bush in the 2004 presidential campaign.
During the first three months of the year, Congress has spent much of its time discussing the budget and Social Security, and passing legislation toughening laws on bankruptcy. Congress interrupted its Easter break last month to pass the legislation on Schiavo.
“This is a pretty sour spring,” said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “People are not very impressed by what Bush is doing or by what Congress is doing – Democrats or Republicans.”
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken April 4-6 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
On the Net:
Ipsos-Public Affairs – http://www.ap-ipsosresults.com