I'll actually be working mostly off the full report (PDF), so my take on things will touch on a few issues that the press release doesn't.
Take this fun fact: not only do we think Bush sucks, most of us think he sucks really, really bad. Where the press release tells us, "Just 32 percent of Americans now approve of the way Bush is handling his job, while 66 percent disapprove," that's about all we get about it. But the actual breakdown of those responses is very telling. Respondents were asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?" The responses worked out this way:
-Strongly approve: 16%
-Somewhat approve: 16%
-Somewhat disapprove: 15%
-Strongly disapprove: 51%
See what happened there? Far and away, the largest group of voters strongly disapprove of the job Bush is doing. In fact, if we do the math, we find that those strong disapprovers make up 77% of all disapprovers. Ouch. Meanwhile, Bush's approvers are weak and evenly split. Anti-Bush sentiments are not only widely held, but strongly held.
As I said earlier, Bush's biggest problems -- beside his arrogance -- are the war in Iraq and the economy. Antiwar feelings are even more strongly held than anti-Bush sentiments. Asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?" 69% answered that they disapprove. If you break this one down, it looks even worse than Bush's job approvals:
-Strongly approve: 17%
-Somewhat approve: 13%
-Somewhat disapprove: 14%
-Strongly disapprove: 54%
Even considering the three percent margin of error, the majority doesn't just disapprove -- with 54%, the majority strongly disapproves. This makes up about 80% of all war disapprovers. Fully, 68% disapprove of Bush's handling of the war.
On the economy, 66% disapprove. On the "direction of the country," 77% believe we're on the wrong track. These thing do not bode well for Bush's legacy.
Or for the Republican party. According to the press release:
There's been political damage beyond the president; his party has suffered as well. After decades of gradual growth, the Republican Party finally achieved parity with the Democrats in 2003, when, on average across the year, precisely equal numbers of Americans identified themselves with either party -- 31 percent Democrats, 31 percent Republicans (with the rest independents).
But that changed after 2003 -- the year the United States invaded Iraq. Since then Republican self-identification has moved back down, to an average of 25 percent across 2007 -- its lowest yearlong average since 1984.
And those who do still identify as Republican are distancing themselves from Bush dramatically. "His ratings are far higher among his core supporters, Republicans and conservatives, with 68 percent and 55 percent approval, respectively," we're told. "But even those are well below his career averages in these groups, 86 percent and 71 percent."
This is real bad news for the GOP in '08. All but one of the Republican presidential hopefuls support the massively unpopular war in Iraq and all support economic and tax policies that favor the wealthy in one way or another, be it tax cuts, a flat tax, or no tax -- a continuation of the supply-side economic theory that Bush favors. In other words, the entire GOP field seems to have a political tin ear. They tell you what to think, not the other way around.
All this spells coming disaster for the GOP -- not only presidentially, but legislatively. In Iowa, Democratic caucus-goers outnumbered Republicans 2-1. In New Hampshire, polling places ran short of Democratic ballots. Democrats are poised to strengthen their gains from 2006 in both houses and take the presidency. At this point, a Democratic monopoly in DC seems likely, with a dem White House, House of Representatives, and Senate.
Republicans have been busy distancing themselves from Bush, while advocating his policies. John McCain, for example, seems committed to staying in Iraq for so long that we might as well give them a state motto, an NFL franchise, and a fifty-first star on the flag. Unless these guys not only distance themselves from Bush, but from Bush's policies, they are screwed. Independents are going to make the difference in choosing our next government and Bush is only polling 25% there. In fact, the release tells us, "Seventy-nine percent of Americans say [Bush's] successor should take the nation in a different direction."
A different direction doesn't consist of going straight down Bush road and renaming it. It means exactly what it seems to mean -- that Bush road is the wrong direction. If Republicans want to win anything, they're going to have to drastically change their own direction.
And there's not much chance of that.