I hear Pres. Bush's approval rating is now low but once was higher than his dad's.
What's the story and why is this important?
Yes, President Bush enjoyed the highest job-approval ratings in history after the events of Sept. 11.
His job approval percentage was even higher than his father's in the wake of the first Gulf War, which was unprecedented at the time.
His current job approval rating is just under 50%.
This is in the news this week because anything under 50% in the job approval rating is considered a strong indicator of the election results.
For Bush fans, you can take hope that his approval ratings are JUST under 50%, and only measured once there since the GOP Convention.
It's certainly not overwhelming evidence of an impending electoral loss.
For Kerry fans, you can take hope that Bush's approval ratings have been consistently slipping since the Iraq invasion.
That implies a continuing downward trend over the weeks remaining until the election, which could make the job approval rating even lower by November,
Here's a couple of charts with some interpretation:
(Click on the chart to make it fill the screen)
That huge up-spike at the left is the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Bush was hovering at around 55% until then -- the "honeymoon period" and some slippage thereafter.
There's pretty steady erosion in his approval rating for the next year and a half.
That means Bush did not get much of a boost from the Afghanistan invasion, although wars usually do result in an increase in support because of rallying around the president.
The smaller up-spike in April 2003 marks the public approval for Bush's invasion of Iraq -- that's a more typical pattern for wartime -- and the steady erosion after that means the public did not so much like the news coming out of Iraq.
The final up-spike, and Bush's last peak above 60%, was in the aftermath of the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Looking at the Saddam up-spike, it was entirely temporary -- if you hold your thumb over it, you wouldn't have known it was there, since the decline was steady on both sides of it.
There is certainly a break in the trend at the very end -- the bottom was 46% approval in early May 2004 and Bush has enjoyed some improvement since then.
It's unclear whether the downturn in Bush's approval since September 2004 is temporary or permanent -- only the next few weeks will tell, so the election is not really predictable by this measurement.
Some pundits like to use the disapproval rating better than the approval rating.
The difference is the "don't know" column, which was as high as 18% prior to Sept. 11 but only as high as 8% post-Sept.11.
The disapproval chart shows the same three events as above: big Sept. 11 spike, smaller Iraq invasion spike, and the temporary Saddam-capture spike.
But looking at the tail end, I'd call that a leveling off more than a trend. And it levels off below 50% -- latest reading was 4% "don't know".