Bush today vs. LBJ in Vietnam

By Germanm

May 16, 2006 8:40pm

Polling director Gary Langer blogs about the president’s chief problem: We reported a new ABC News/Washington Post poll today with some challenging findings for President Bush and his administration, including a job approval rating that matches the lowest in 25 years of ABC/Post polls. It’s clear from our data that the president’s chief problem is the war in Iraq – not just the level of U.S. casualties (which 76 percent call unacceptable) but the policy behind the war. A new high of 66 percent disapprove of how Bush is handling the situation, fewer than half think the war has contributed to long-term U.S. security – its fundamental rationale – and 52 percent think the administration intentionally misled the American public in making its case for war. (At left, U.S. Marine Sgt. Derek McGee, of Rhinebeck, New York, speaks into his radio during a patrol in Fallujah earlier this month.) In all, 59 percent say the war was a mistake – about as many as said the same about Vietnam in Gallup polls in the early 1970s. And therein likes a striking comparison: Our analysis includes a chart that tracks Lyndon B. Johnson’s approval ratings as the nation became enmeshed in Vietnam – from an average 75 percent approval in 1964, to 66 percent a year later, then 51 percent, then 43 percent in 1967-8. Alongside it we track Bush’s approval ratings from 9/11 through the war in Iraq – from an average 73 percent approval in 2001-2, then 62 percent, then 50 percent, then 46 percent, and now an average 40 percent so far this year. The trend lines are remarkably similar – a stark reminder of the political hazards of war. (At right, a chart tracking GWB and LBJ approval ratings.) It’s also striking that, despite increased pessimism about the war, relatively few Americans – 17 percent – call for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces. Beneath the public’s discontent, that suggests, lies an underlying sense of responsibility not to walk away from Iraq in its current condition. (At left, Iraqis gather at the scene following an attack in Baghdad today. Gunmen raided a parking area in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, shooting five people and killing at least 13 others when they triggered a car bomb, police said.)

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