Bush Losing Support From His Base

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 9, 2005; 1:36 PM

Through thick and thin, President Bush has always maintained the ferocious backing of his Republican base.

Until now?

As I wrote in yesterday's column , partisan squabbles are something the Bush White House has found it can handle just fine, because the base hangs tough. But public outrage over the Hurricane Katrina debacle has the potential to transcend politics as usual.

And quite possibly, something is up.

According to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press , Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to 40 percent -- an all-time low for this/that poll -- and his disapproval rating has climbed to an all-time high of 52 percent. That's a four-point shift in both numbers from July.

But look at the detailed results for the story behind the story.

That four percentage point shift from just two months ago isn't fueled by any significant change of mind among Democrats and independents. Instead, it's all a reflection of a shift in Bush's base.

Republicans polled in July said they approved of Bush by an 88 to 9 percent margin. In September, that margin was 79 to 18, reflecting a 9 percent shift from approvers to disapprovers. That's a very significant change.

Pollsters, in fact, often look at the gap between two answers as the more telling number. By that reckoning, the gap between Republican approval and disapproval has dropped from 79 to 61 -- or 18 points.

Among conservative Republicans, there was an eight-point shift, from 91-6 to 84-14. (That's a 15-point change in the gap.)

Among moderate and liberal Republicans, there was an 11-point shift, from 81-15 to 70-26. (That's a 22-point change in the gap.)

Pew asked specifically about Bush's handling of Katrina relief efforts and found: "Two-in-three Americans (67 percent) believe he could have done more to speed up relief efforts, while just 28 percent think he did all he could to get them going quickly. . . .

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