In a basic measure of personal popularity, 48 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Bush overall, 51 percent unfavorable, the first time he's gotten a majority unfavorable rating, however slightly.
Of two other political figures tested, Hillary Rodham Clinton has a rating of 51 percent-46 percent, favorable to unfavorable, marginally better than Bush's, but hardly powerful. Better overall is Sen. John McCain, with 57 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable. McCain, a Republican, and Clinton, a Democrat, are possible candidates for president in 2008.
McCain's favorability crosses ideological and party lines in a way Bush's and Clinton's do not – a good profile for a general election campaign, but not necessarily for winning primaries. Indeed, reflecting his 2000 campaign difficulties, McCain is weaker among conservatives (48 percent favorable) than among moderates or liberals (63 percent and 62 percent, respectively), and conservatives account for a disproportionate share of Republican primary voters. Clinton, by contrast, is much more popular among liberals (75 percent favorable) than among moderates (55 percent) or conservatives (31 percent).
Roughly equal numbers of Americans in this survey identify themselves as Republicans (31 percent) and Democrats (30 percent). These groups very sharply differ on many of these issues; it's the center -- independents -- where some of Bush's negatives turn into majorities.
Overall, for instance, while 84 percent of Republicans approve of Bush's performance, just 38 percent of independents (and 21 percent of Democrats) agree. And intensity is greater on the negative side: Among all Americans, 38 percent disapprove "strongly" of Bush's performance, compared with 27 percent who approve strongly.
Ideology tells a similar story: Bush has 68 percent approval from conservatives, but that drops to 44 percent among moderates, and further among liberals, to 24 percent.
There are other gaps, including a huge regional difference: Sixty percent of Southerners approve of Bush's work, compared with 32 percent in the Northeast, and 44 percent in the Midwest and West alike.
On terrorism, the decline in Bush's ratings since April occurred among men (approval down 12 points) and non-whites (down 20 points). It's also fallen twice as far among independents, down 14 points, as among Democrats or Republicans.
As noted, the biggest letdown in expectations of Bush's second-term performance has been among Republicans: In January, 82 percent thought he'd do a better job; today, 44 percent say he is – 38 points fewer. The letdown is 24 points among independents, and 17 points among Democrats, who had particularly low expectations.
Another result describes the increasing narrowness of Bush's support. The only population groups in which majorities say he's concentrating on issues that are important to them personally are Republicans, evangelical white Protestants, conservatives and better-off Americans, those with household incomes of $75,000 a year or more.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone June 2-5, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.