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Breaking Down Bush's Rating by Politics
by Jeffrey M. Jones
March 24, 2006

PRINCETON, NJ -- Recent analyses on galluppoll.com have discussed how much things have changed over the past year in terms of George W. Bush's job approval rating. In the last three Gallup Polls, Bush's approval rating has averaged 37%. At a similar time last year (late February/early March), a three-poll average showed approval at 52%.

Bush's support has dropped mainly among independents, but also among Republicans. Democrats' approval of Bush has also declined, but not as much as the other two groups', because Democrats' ratings were so low to begin with. This means Bush's support today is mainly limited to self-identified Republicans and independent-leaning Republicans. In other words, he has little support among those who are normally disinclined to support Republican candidates or policies.

Even within the partisan groups, support varies. For example, Bush's support is likely higher among conservative Republicans than among moderate or liberal Republicans, and his support may have dropped more among moderate or liberal Republicans than among conservatives. It's also interesting to see how Bush stacks up with conservative Democrats, who often are a key swing group.

To assess how Bush's support falls across the full political spectrum in the United States, Gallup analysts combined the three most recent Gallup Polls. To get a sense of change over the past year, we combined three polls from a similar point last year. 

The table shows Bush's approval rating by party and ideological groups for the two periods. In this context, "Republicans" include Republican identifiers as well as those who initially identify as independent but then indicate they lean toward the Republican Party. Also, because there are so few Republicans who describe their ideology as "liberal," liberal and moderate Republicans are combined into one category. The "pure independent" category includes independents who do not lean to either party, regardless of their ideology. Each year's data is based on roughly 3,000 total interviews. 


Feb 25-Mar 20, 2005

Feb 28-Mar 16, 2006

(pct pts)





Overall average








Liberal Democrat




Moderate Democrat




Conservative Democrat




Pure independent




Liberal/Moderate Republican




Conservative Republican




Bush has lost most approval among pure independents, followed by Republicans, and then Democrats. He has dropped significantly among all party-by-ideology groups. Bush's support among pure independents has been cut in half, from 43% to 21%.  

The net result of these changes is that independents' support for Bush is now quite similar to that of conservative Democrats (17%), and to a lesser degree, moderate Democrats (10%). Liberal Democrats are nearly universal in their opposition to Bush, just 4% approve of him. 

Bush has lost about equal support among the two Republican groups -- liberal and moderate Republicans' ratings of Bush have declined 13 percentage points, while approval among conservative Republicans has fallen 11 points. That partly may be because some of Bush's recent missteps -- the Harriet Miers nomination and the Dubai ports deal -- rankled many conservative Republicans. Conservative Republicans still solidly back Bush at 81%, but only a year ago they were nearly unanimous in their support.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of approximately 3,000 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 25-March 20, 2005, and Feb. 28-March 16, 2006. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±2 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Original Text