Bush's Troubles Shake the GOP Base: Both Moderate and Conservative Partisans Grow Restless

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

06/07/2006 - As public approval of George W. Bush languishes at all-time low levels, supporters of the president are increasingly hard to find. In the months following his re-election, roughly half of the country rated Bush's job performance favorably. Today only a third of Americans do so, while more than half (56%) disapprove of his performance. These latest figures are based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 27-May 22, among a national sample of 3,204 adults, a large enough survey to allow for a more detailed breakdown of where and how opinion has changed since the election. While the decline in support transcends ideological and demographic lines, the drop among one group – moderate Republicans – has been especially steep. Among all Republicans, Bush's job approval rating has dropped 20 percentage points since December 2004 (from 89% to 69%). This erosion of support has been most severe among Republicans describing themselves as moderate or liberal, where his rating has dropped 25 points from 81% to 56%.

Conservative Republican support for Bush has also declined, but more gradually. Approval among this group was nearly unanimous (93%) following his re-election, and stands 15 points lower at 78% today.

But there are far more conservatives than moderates in the GOP; as many as two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservative. This means that even though the drop off in their support has been more gradual, the implications are no less serious. Translated into real numbers, just as many conservative Republicans as moderate and liberal Republicans have grown frustrated with the president's leadership over the past year-and-a-half. While a much larger share of moderate and liberal Republicans disapprove of the president, they make up only a minority of the GOP.

Within the Republican Party, moderate women stand out for their lack of support for the president. Through most of Bush's presidency he has been evaluated similarly by men and women within the GOP, but this latest survey shows signs of a potential gender gap. Currently, only half (51%) of Republican women who describe themselves as moderate or liberal approve of Bush's job performance – a falloff of 31 percentage points since his re-election. By comparison, his approval rating among moderate and liberal Republican men stands at just over six-in-ten (62%) down only 19 points over this same period. There is no gender gap in presidential approval among more conservative Republicans.

Read the full report Bush's Troubles Shake the GOP Base: Both Moderate and Conservative Partisans Grow Restless on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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