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Zogby: Bush would lose election contests against all of his predecessors since Carter
September 08, 2005

Bush Job Approval Hits 41%-All Time Low; Would Lose to Every Modern President; Public Rates All Levels of Government Poorly in Katrina Handling; Red Cross Rated Higher Than Federal Government, 69%-17% -New Zogby America Poll

President Bush's job approval rating took a hit in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, dropping to a historic low of 41%, a new Zogby America poll reveals. The same survey found the nation's forty-third president would lose election contests against all of his predecessors since Jimmy Carter.

The Zogby America survey of 1157 likely voters, conducted from September 6 through 7, 2005, has a margin of error of +/-2.9 percentage points.

The public rates the performance of all levels of government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina negatively, with 36% giving the President passing marks on his handling of the crisis-slightly higher than the 32% who give government in general good marks for its handling of the storm that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast.

In another key finding, the Zogby America survey finds that 86% of likely voters assess the response of private charities favorably, and one charity, the American Red Cross, gets higher marks than the federal government, as well as state and local governments. In fact, four times as many respondents say the Red Cross did a better job than the federal government, with the charity being seen as more effective by 69% and the government's response viewed more favorably by 17%. The Red Cross also gets better marks than Louisiana's state and local governments, by a 72% to 10% margin.

President Bush's Job Approval Hits All-Time Low

The 41% approval rating marks a precipitous drop in the President's job rating, which has been slumping in a gradual trend that began in late February.

Pessimism about the nation's direction surged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with a 53% majority of voters saying the nation is heading in the wrong direction, while a 42% minority continues to say the nation is on the right track. This is a significant shift since the last Zogby America poll, taken at the end of July, which showed voters evenly divided on the question, with 46% saying the nation was headed in the right direction and 47% saying it was on the wrong track.

Pessimists now outweigh optimists in all regions except the Western U.S., where voters are evenly divided on the nation's direction. The South, the area exclusively devastated by Katrina, is actually more positive in its outlook on U.S. direction than the east, where voters are twice as likely to say the nation is heading in the wrong direction as the right direction, by a massive 64% to 33% margin.

A month ago, President Bush's job approval numbers were surging on a number of fronts, suggesting that, after months of stagnation in his overall approval, the President was about to see a measurable increase in his job performance rating. However, Hurricane Katrina damaged more than the Gulf Coast, with the President's numbers on a number of fronts dropping, and the percentage of voters willing to rate his handling of various facets of his office as "poor' climbing substantially.

Significantly, though, the President's signature issue has actually improved marginally, with a 52% majority continuing to approve of his handling of the War on Terror, up one point from a month ago

n a sign of just how severe the damage to the President's standing caused by Katrina is, the Zogby America survey finds that, despite his re-election last fall, President Bush would lose to every modern president since Jimmy Carter, the one-term Democrat who left office amid record unpopularity and a presidency rated, at the time, dismally. He would also lose to his own father, who left office amid an economic recession triggered, in part, by a devastating hurricane.

However, in one of the few bright spots for the President, he would still beat Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, by a narrow, one-point margin.

Government At All Levels Criticized

Just one-in-three (32%) voters say that the government response to Hurricane Katrina was adequate, while two-thirds (66%) rate the response negatively.

Among those holding a negative view of the government response, President Bush bears the brunt of public criticism, with one-in-four (27%) voters saying he most deserves the blame for inadequate government response. Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown comes in next in overall criticism, with 22% blaming him. However, the combined total blaming Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (15%) and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (8%), the senior state and local officials, respectively, is slightly higher than those blaming Brown, with 23% placing the blame on the two Louisiana figures. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, meanwhile, comes in at 8%, while 9% blame other government officials.

It is worth noting that among the one-in-three voters who have a favorable view of the government response, an overwhelming 40% credit the president, while 16% credit Brown, 12% credit Blanco, 6% credit Nagin, and 7% credit Chertoff.

Red Cross Did "Better Job" Reacting to Katrina

Respondents say the American Red Cross did a better job than either federal or state and local governments responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The huge private charity is rated more favorably than the federal government by a 69% to 17% margin, and more favorably than Louisiana's state and local governments by an even larger 72% to 10% margin.

The survey also finds 86% of likely voters saying that private charities reacted effectively to the hurricane, while just 9% have a negative opinion of charities' responses. Significantly, a 55% majority term private charities' responses "excellent."

Pollster John Zogby: "The President has managed to do early in his second term what his father did in just one term: Go from record high approval numbers in the aftermath of 9/11 to his present numbers in the low 40s."

"It's interesting that each of the former presidents beats President Bush and that his image has been hurt with what is perceived as his greatest strength. It's intriguing to me as well that John Kerry is still stuck where he was on Election Night-an indicator that Democrats, today, are unable to take advantage of the nation's situation politically."

"Ironically, the Republican message to Americans is to rely less on government. And it looks like that message is getting across, as Americans have more faith in the Red Cross in this crisis than government."

Zogby International conducted interviews of 1157 likely voters chosen at random nationwide. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from September 6 to 7, 2005. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points. Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, and genderto more accurately reflect the voting population. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.