September 22, 2006

Bush’s September Gains: A Mixed Picture

Little Boost for GOP in Generic Ballot

by Andrew Kohut

FigurePresident Bush has gotten a bit of good news in some of this month’s polls by national survey organizations. But that verdict is by no means unanimous. Three polls – by AP/Ipsos, Gallup/USA Today and the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News – show Bush’s job approval significantly higher than in the beginning of August.

But in two surveys – ABC News/ Washington Post and NBC News/Wall Street Journal – Bush’s ratings went up just two points, well within each poll’s margin of error. And in two others – CBS News/New York Times and Pew Research Center – the president’s rating rose by no more than a point.

The pattern in these polling results, or the lack of one, suggests there was not a major change in opinions of the president during a period when the public’s focus on terrorism increased markedly. That said, the president clearly has improved his standing since the spring. In Pew’s poll this month, his approval rating was 37%, up from 33% in March.

What is less certain is how much ground – if any – he has gained in the past month or so. In the new CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted Sept. 15-19, Bush had a 37% job approval – virtually unchanged from August (36%). However, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News survey, conducted Sept. 16-19, showed Bush’s approval at 45%, a notable increase from August (40%).

While some recent polls show Bush’s ratings rising modestly, there are few indications that Republicans are closing the gap in the generic congressional ballot. The CBS News/New York Times survey showed Democrats with a 15-point advantage among registered voters, no change from mid-August. The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News survey found Democrats with a stable 49%-39% lead.

Most polls conducted earlier this month, including Pew’s, also show no change in the race. The ABC News/Washington Post survey, conducted Sept. 5-7, showed the Democratic lead narrowing a bit, from 52%-39% to 50%-42%. Gallup/USA Today is the only major survey to find significant volatility in the race: The Democrats’ lead among registered voters narrowed from nine points to two points in August in the Gallup/USA Today poll, before increasing to 12 points in early September (Sept. 7-10). Democrats’ held a nine-point advantage in the most recent survey by that organization (Sept. 15-17).

The same Gallup/USA Today survey created a stir because it showed the race is tied among likely voters (at 48%-48%), in spite of the Democratic advantage among registered voters. However, when other survey organizations – including CBS News/New York Times, the Pew Research Center and AP-Ipsos – narrowed their samples to likely voters, they found the Democratic advantage undiminished.