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August 28, 2007

Bush's "Low" Approval Ratings are Actually Quite High
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I'm always reading that President Bush's approval ratings are sinking. And, relative to past presidents, they are - after all, the latest numbers are in the low 30s. Well, I think I'm going to have dissent here and say that this seems pretty high to me. Think about it: 33% of our fellow Americans approve of Bush's job performance. It's not just that they like the guy, or that they feel sorry for him, or wish him the best; it's that they approve of his performance.

What I want to know is who are these Bush-approvers, what's their deal, and what are in the world are they thinking? This means that somewhere close to 70 million people in America (and probably around 70.02 million in the world) approve of this guy. This is very, very scary. So, no, I'm not heartened by these poll results. I mean, let's remember that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who seems like a much more intelligent and respectable guy than Bush, has gotten as low as 3%, or within the margin of error. This means that Olmert, his family, and his close friends still supported him, but not necessarily anyone else (Matt Yglesias also pondered the possibility of negative popularity, 3 - 4% = -1%). So, my question is this: can someone tell me something about these 70 million people?


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They're staunch conservatives who now feel that their president is being attacked and so they too feel attacked. When things get worse for Bush, they like him more. They're hoping that they can turn things around for their president and their party by sheer force of will. They're like Cubs fans.

It's easy, they are the top 1/5 of the country who are doing quite well. Earnings are up for this sector, they work for firms which provide decent benefits, they live in nice communities and send their kids to good schools.

They have also done well with their investments (real estate and stocks) over the past five years. The latest sags in these markets haven't really done much damage as yet. A decline of 5-8% isn't much after a series of years of 12-20% growth.

That's 60 million.

The remaining group are the "red necks" who don't follow the world in detail, but know who they hate. Bush telegraphs that he hates the same groups, so they support him. You can hear them anytime you wish if you just listen to the call in shows that cater to them such as Limbaugh and O'Reilly.

The first group is rational in that they are supporting the GOP which caters to their interests. They realize that they won't do as well in the future. A Dem administration will increase taxes on the top via some mechanism or other. There may also be increased regulation of the wild west financial services sector and this will limit their opportunities for out sized profits.

The bottom group is unreachable. They can always find a new demagogue to follow.

Bush got 62 million votes in 2004, so 70 million is actually an improvement over that. Robert's correct in saying that the stock market crowd loves Bush for financial reasons, but he's got his head up his butt about rednecks "who don't follow the world in detail". Robert, how many rednecks do you know? I live with one so my dander is up.

The other group that has always favored Bush is the fundies who think that Bush is doing the lord's work here on earth, zapping those unbelievers who attacked amurica. As regards Olmert, I don't know, but I suspect that they have a free and independent press in Israel. Most other developed countries do, unlike the US press which parrots the government line and props up a steady stream of ineffective US presidents.

The close-minded contempt here for those who have different (i.e., non-liberal, non-leftist, non-islamist) political views amazes me sometimes.

NYer, leftist and Islamist political views probably shouldn't be lumped in together. I'm a leftist. I don't think I'd do very well in a Sharia society.

"The close-minded contempt here for those who have different (i.e., non-liberal, non-leftist, non-islamist) political views amazes me sometimes."

Er--I can't say that I've ever heard anyone on this site express contempt for people with non-Islamist views. In fact, I'm not aware of anyone who writes on this site who has *Islamist* views.

NYer, the only "contempt" (i.e. despising, looking down on) that I can see in these posts was toward rednecks, and I spoke to that. What "close-minded contempt" do you see that has amazed you?

I guess what set me off is Shadi's tone when he discusses conservatives and Republicans (a tone which is shared by many of the contributors to this site), compared to his much more measured approach when discussing, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Calling your fellow citizens "fundies who think that Bush is doing the lord's work here on earth, zapping those unbelievers who attacked amurica" seemed contemptuous to me. Sorry if I misapprehended your intent.

There are a lot of people with a vested interest in supporting Bush. Certainly, there those in Haliburton and other war profiteers are getting very rich off of Bush's policies. Likewise, those who have investments in energy or work in the oil/gas/coal business are making a lot of money off of Bush's policies. Then you have a lot of people who have a vested interest in destroying America. Al Qieda sleeper cells, anarchists, right-wing religious fanatics and hard-core Republicans.

It is sad that 30 percent of American citizens hate American democracy and our freedoms, but don't feel bad, in the Arab world, the figure is around 95 percent.

On Shadi, apparently you're referring to this:

"I don’t think the Republican party is liberal either, as they refuse to ban torture, have little respect for separation of powers, have stacked our bureaucracy with people who put party over country, and believe in something called the “unitary executive” which is more frightening than anything I’ve seen the MB put out in their election programs)"

First of all, you didn't respond to Shadi on that thread. You need to. He wants you to, if I may speak for him. He might even respond back. Don't be bashful, we all want to hear from you. When Shadi says something outrageous, which he sometimes enjoys doing, give him some outrage back. I do. He's a good person.

Secondly, Shadi didn't mention conservatives, he referred to the Republican Party which has been taken away from conservatives by the neocons. You know that, and you know that everything Shadi ascribed to the RP is true--which is probably why you didn't respond.

Regarding fundies, I think that I characterized them accurately. Now it's a fact that I do have contempt for fundies, but I don't think there's contempt in my remark. There is a lot of support for Bush from the united we stand, god and country American sector, no? There are people who think that Bush is doing the lord's work, no? Bush has fostered anti-Muslim feelings, no? Christians do look down on unbelievers, don't they? The entire attack and occupation of Iraq has largely been sold as revenge for arab behavior on 9/11. How was my remark contemptuous?

Finally, hey, loosen up. We do get contemptuous sometimes, so what. This is America, with freedom of speech, right? You have in fact shown contempt for those of us "here" in your posting--have we attacked you? Give us some more--we can take it.

Who are those people who still support Bush? Likely people who don't pay particular attention to foreign policy, but look around and see a quite robust economy and have a decent standard of living. There's plenty of those folks about, and while I do wish everyone would pay more attention to world affairs, I really can't fault a workingman who wants nothing more than to put his head down, support his family, and be left alone.

Seventy Million in support? Ridiculous! A third of those are kids below 18 who have no vote, or probably opinions either. That brings us down to about 45 million. Half of those won't vote anyway--down to 23 million. In there are the top one percent who reap the benefits W. hands out. Most of the others don't realize the damage he's done to their bill of rights or are convinced that it's only somebody else's rights, not theirs.

Don Bacon,
You're probably right that there would have been more appropriate threads to make my point on. Usually I'm content to read quietly. Occasionally I feel moved to comment, as I did this morning.

Sometimes I get frustrated when people who should know better seem unable to accept that intelligent, well-meaning people can have very different ways of viewing things politically. It's easy to stigmatize one's opponents as greedy, power hungry, ignorant, stupid, crazy, etc. Some, no doubt, are. But others have thought deeply about the important questions, want what's best for society, and simply have arrived at a different outlook from one's own. Anyway, I'll come down off my soapbox now.

I'm not sure what the complaint is about. I put "red necks" in quotes specifically so that this would be understood to be an oversimplification or short hand. I further qualified it by suggesting people tune it to the hate-filled rightwing talk shows for a sample. If you want to call these people something else, feel free.

As for their "not following the world in detail" this has been validated by various surveys. The most striking one correlates how misinformed people are with how much the watch/listen to Fox. The more they watch, the less they know.

There are those of all political stripes who don't appreciate the degree of racism or cultural bias that still exists in this country. When whites are asked if discrimination still exists about 70% say no, when blacks are asked the numbers are approximately reversed. I tend to believe the blacks. They have first-hand experience. This racism has now spread to Hispanics and middle easterners.

The "red necks" aren't necessarily southerners. In fact there is some good psychologhical data as to who they are and how they think.

I recommend the free, on-line book by psychologist Robert Altemeyer:
The Authoritarians

He has isolated a series of characteristics which he calls the "right wing authoritarian" personality type. This is a person who follows a strong leader and believes in a hierarchical structure to society. There is a strong correlation between this type of personality and having conservative social ideas as well.

If you want to deal with this sector of the population it would be wise to find out what makes them tick.

Robert, apparently you're using "redneck" as shorthand for "right wing authoritarian" personality types. Not accurate. At least it doesn't apply to the rednecks I know. //Merriam Webster: redneck: a white member of the Southern rural laboring class--sometimes used disparagingly.// At least you didn't say they are all stupid ("don't follow the world in detail" was close) and marry their cousins, that their family tree has one branch, and that a biography of a redneck family was entitled: "Root"

NYer, I grant that you will find people on some blogs who object to hearing a conservative point of view. I enjoy some give-and-take, but you may have to tough it out with some people. I think that you'll be okay on this site. The one thing that gets me going, personally (besides someone downing rednecks), is advocating war. That sets me off, personally. So get back up on your soapbox, these libs get boring. Giuliani, you say?

You know if everyone spent all their time using just the politically correct verbiage of the moment things would be pretty dull. We would have had to tell Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde to shut up. I put "red neck" in quotes and I expect that most people knew what I meant. Lighten up and get back to the issue. Which was, in case you have forgotten, why so many people still support the president.

To summarize (my opinions):
1. They are in the "winner" group in society
2. They are right wing authoritarians who have latched on to Bush for emotional or psychological reasons and he is still saying things they want to hear.
3. They are people who haven't been paying attention (this is not a euphemism for stupid) and don't know what's going on. Since most people are not directly affected by the war their disinterest has no direct negative effect on their personal lives. They do pay attention to things that do affect them which is why many local issues tend to become so heated. People who pay no mind to foreign affairs on economic policies will show up when school policy or zoning changes are being discussed.

I never voted for the man, but it's intersting to note that Bush's approval ratings level remains above that of Harry Truman during his last year in office. Truman was, at the time and by all the right people, regarded as a boob who "lost" China, encouraged (along with his Secretary of State) the communists to believe Korea was outside our area of strategic influence and generally mismanaged the Korean War.

In 1992, every presidential candidate in the field was eager to prove he was more like Give-'em-Hell Harry than his opponents.

That's because history has rehabilitated Truman, demonstrating that considering what he had to work with (a disintegrating WWII alliance with Stalin, a hegemonic Soviet Union and an international economy teetering on the brink of a new Great Depression because of all the war damage to Europe) he actually jumped the right way more often than not.

One wonders what historians in 2040 will have to say of Operation Iraqi Freedom and President G.W. Bush, does one not?

Just asking.

Mark Dorroh, Richmond VA

Robertdfienman implys that many Bush supporters are rich or stupid. The rich ones "won't do as well in the future. A Dem administration will increase taxes on the top via some mechanism or other. There may also be increased regulation of the wild west financial services sector and this will limit their opportunities for out sized profits.
The bottom group is unreachable. They can always find a new demagogue to follow."

A Dem administration will do what Dem administrations usually do: try their level best to kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs via confiscatory rates of taxation. Those higher marginal rates on the despised rich will pump billions out of private investment markets and into tax coffers, providing the illusion to those of us who don't pay much attention to the world in detail that we're getting something for nothing.

The rub comes when you and I go to take out a mortgage, an education loan, a small business loan, a car loan. At that time, all those billions taken from private investment markets will come out of our pockets in higher interest rates.

This is because the less money there is in investment markets, the dearer the cost of borrowing it. Many persons of limited means will accordingly be denied loans at rates they can afford.

But don't worry, the government will find a way to give them strings-attached money for their needs. That money will come from the private investment markets the government raided in the first place.

Wouldn't it just be more efficient to let the market determine the prices of loans, instead of sticking the government into the process?

I can't believe this dynamic engenders a net savings to me when I borrow money to put my kid through college or expand my business and hire more people to work for me. What it mostly does is pay for additional layers of public employees who create no wealth themselves but who instead earn their pay by regulating the activities and income of those who do.

Poverty is ugly, and it's fueled most often by institutional constraints on voluntary human associations. For examples, look to any socialist state, from the USSR through the Social Democracies of Europe today. Most of them have moribund economies, 'way too many workers laid off on full or near-full wages, and strained government budgets which cannot maintain the ideal levels of economic safety they seek.

But that's OK. So long as the Germans and French have guest workers to do the heavy lifting, they'll be fine. Unless the guest workers get resentful about the whole deal ... oh yeah, that's already happening, isn't it?

Mark Dorroh, Richmond, VA

This is actually a very foolish question posed here. I saw a bipartisan poll the other day that found that 57% of American voters approved of George W. Bush as a person. What you don't get is that the vast majority of Americans don't hold the DailyKos viewpoint on things.

Secondly, let's not forget about the low unemployment, the long economic boom, the fact that there have been no terrorist strikes on US soil since 9/11 and the fact that Americans are far, far more conservative than virtually any other 'western' nation. The South, for instance, where 1 out of 3 Americans now live is hugely conservative and are much more likely to approve of President Bush. All in all, it's not surprising that he still has a lot of support.

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