Measures of confidence tell a similar story: Just 29 percent of Americans express substantial confidence in the Bush administration, while 71 percent don't. And nearly half, 49 percent, say their confidence in the administration has been decreasing lately, while a scant two percent say it's been rising. Even among Republicans and conservatives, about a third say their confidence has decreased.
But history shows that tides of opinion can turn. In late 1995, just 25 percent expressed confidence in the Clinton administration. That improved for Clinton in a retrospective measurement at the end of his presidency five years later.
Job Approval: Career Lows
Still, Bush's troubles stand out, in large part because they're rooted not just in economic concerns but in an increasingly unpopular war. That invites comparisons to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose approval rating suffered each year as the country became more enmeshed in Vietnam -- dropping in Gallup data from 75 percent on average in 1964, to 43 percent in 1967 and 1968. Bush, for his part, has gone from an average of 73 percent approval in 2000 and 2001 to 46 percent, on average, so far this year. The trend lines are strikingly similar.
Bush vs. Johnson: Average Approval
|LBJ 1964 / Bush 2001-2||LBJ 1965 / Bush 2003||LBJ 1966 / Bush 2004||LBJ 1967-8 /|
Notably, the number of Americans who say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, at 60 percent, is higher than the number who said in 1968 that the Vietnam war was a mistake, a high of 54 percent. That grew to 61 percent by 1971, by which time it was Richard Nixon's problem.
The public's concerns about Iraq continue to be mixed with a sense of obligation, although this, too, has ebbed. Fifty-two percent of Americans say the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until public order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties.
While still more than half, this is a new low, down from 58 percent in June and 66 percent in spring 2004. And it's a question that inspires deep divisons: Sixty percent of men say the Unites States should stay, compared to 45 percent of women (who tend generally to express less support for military action). And 75 percent of Republicans say the United States should stay, compared to 49 percent of independents and barely over a third of Democrats.
Examined another way, just under half of Americans, 47 percent, favor decreasing the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq, up by nine points since June. Among the rest, 36 percent say the current troop level should stay the same, and 15 percent think it should be increased. (Those who favor decreasing the deployment include the 18 percent of Americans who'd like to see all U.S. troops withdrawn immediately.)
Finally, views on the latest White House headache, the CIA leak case, are quite similar to where they stood in an ABC/Post poll just after the Libby indictment last week. Seven in 10 call it a serious case, and just about three in 10 see political motivations behind the indictment.