Eighty-Two Percent of Americans Say the Country's Seriously Off on the Wrong Track
ABC News
May 12, 2008

Public disgruntlement neared a record high and President Bush slipped to his career low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Eighty-two percent of Americans now say the country's seriously off on the wrong track, up 10 points in the last year to a point from its record high in polls since 1973. And 31 percent approve of Bush's job performance overall, while 66 percent disapprove.

The country's mood -- and the president's ratings -- are suffering from the double whammy of an unpopular war and a faltering economy. Consistently for the last year, nearly two-thirds of Americans have said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. And consumer confidence is near its lowest in weekly ABC News polls since late 1985.

Bush's approval rating has been extraordinarily stable -- before today's 31 percent it had been 32 percent or 33 percent in nine ABC/Post polls from July through last month. In presidential approval polls by Gallup since 1934, just three presidents have gone lower: Jimmy Carter, who bottomed out at 28 percent approval in July 1979; Richard Nixon, 24 percent in July and August 1974; and Harry Truman, 22 percent in February 1952.

Bush now has gone 40 months without majority approval, beating Truman's record (also during economic discontent and an unpopular war) of 38 months from 1949-52.

This poll also covers 2008 election politics; check back for those results at 6:30 p.m.

STRENGTH and PARTISANSHIP -- Beyond the president's overall rating, intensity of sentiment is heavily against Bush. Fifty-two percent of Americans not only disapprove of his work but do so strongly, matching the high in ABC News/Washington Post polls set in July. Just 15 percent strongly approve.

These views remain highly partisan: Sixty-nine percent of Republicans approve of Bush's job performance, while just 9 percent of Democrats agree. His ratings, on average, have been more partisan than any president's since ABC and the Post began polling in 1981.

The swing group, as usual, is the third of Americans who define themselves as independents. Just 24 percent approve of the president's work, a career low.

Republicans, while still behind the president, are less emphatically so: Just 39 percent strongly approve of his performance, while 56 percent of independents and 78 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove.

Among other groups, Bush does best with conservatives -- 57 percent approve -- and evangelical white Protestants, another core Republican group, in which 49 percent approve, a point from the low in this group.

DIRECTION -- Views on the nation's overall direction are sour across the board, again with a partisan and ideological slant: While 95 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents say the country's off on the wrong track, this eases to 62 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of conservatives.

These views directly relate to the president's ratings. Among people who say the country's headed in the right direction, 83 percent approve of Bush's work. His problem is that they constitute just 16 percent of the population. Among the 82 percent who say the country's off on the wrong track, Bush's approval rating is a dismal 21 percent.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone May 8-11, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,122 adults, including an oversample of blacks (weighted to their correct share of the national population), for a total of 206 black respondents. The results from the full survey have a 3-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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