Poll: President Bush's Job Approval Rating vs. Administration Policy Support

News Story: September 7, 2008

A new Sacred Heart University Poll of Americans finds that while President Bush has the lowest positive job approval rating recorded, most of the President’s policies and initiatives, over the years, were viewed favorably by moderate to strong majorities of those surveyed.

The SHU Poll found the President’s job approval rating declined over the years to 28.1% from a high point of 77.9% in April, 2003.

“On the other hand,” according to Jerry C. Lindsley, director of the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute, “the President enjoys majority support on nine of twelve policies or initiatives we measured.”

Among Americans surveyed with an opinion, 78.1% strongly or somewhat supported the President’s policy of cutting taxes.Support for Bush Administration policies ranged from 78.1% to 42.1%.

  • Cutting taxes- 78.1%
  • Suggesting marriage can only be between a man and a woman – 66.8%
  • Bush’s decision to attend the Beijing Olympics – 66.0%
  • Ensuring the right of Americans to own guns – 65.5%
  • Calling for a Palestinian State – 64.7%
  • Enhancing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – 59.5%
  • The Kennedy-Bush No Child Left Behind Education Act – 56.7%
  • Allowing faith-based programs to receive tax dollars – 52.7%
  • President Bush’s appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court – 52.1%
  • The surge of troops in Iraq to quell the violence – 47.7%
  • Initiating the building of a wall between Mexico and the U.S. – 42.4%
  • Preventing federal tax dollar use in stem cell research – 41.1%

Half or nearly half of Americans surveyed with an opinion believed that President Bush would eventually receive a great deal or some credit for a number of successes including…

  • Recent success of troops in Iraq – 57.1%
  • Seeing the North Koreans dismantle some nuclear infrastructure in July 2008-- 56.4%
  • Seeing the Libyans end their nuclear weapons program – 49.5%
  • Seeing the Syrians withdraw their troops from Lebanon – 48.1%

“And yet, on personal characteristics, Americans struggled to provide positive ratings for the President above 50%,” Lindsley added.The positive ratings on seven personal characteristics measured ranged from 56.2% to 33.6%.

  • Standing by his convictions – 56.2%
  • Holding admirable values – 45.7%
  • Keeping us safe – 45.5%
  • Being a strong, determined leader – 44.1%
  • Being empathetic or caring – 41.6%
  • Understanding the realities of the world – 39.3%
  • Honesty – 33.6%

Large majorities of Americans with an opinion suggested they were bothered when the U.S. is poorly perceived internationally (89.7%) and 84.3% suggested they agreed that the overall perception of the United States internationally has declined significantly during the Bush years.

Three quarters reported being embarrassed when the President has been viewed unfavorably by European leaders (76.8%) or Middle Eastern leaders (71.2%).

However, in the end, 54.4% agreed that President Bush will likely be viewed more favorably in history than he is today – twice his current approval rating.And, two fifths (42.2%) agreed that the President has been more effective over the last two years than the U.S. Congress.

“The most recent poll continues to document that the United States is still a moderately conservative nation. The antipathy exhibited by the American people towards President Bush appears to center more on the President’s style rather than his policies. At the same time, it is not at all unusual for citizens to express dissatisfaction with a two term President approaching the end of his presidency. The results regarding policy perspectives also have interesting and important consequence for the 2008 presidential election. The polling results explain why the current race is so competitive,” said Gary Rose, Ph.D., professor and chair of Sacred Heart University’s Department of Government and Politics.


  • Gary Rose, Ph.D., Sacred Heart University professor and chair of the Department of
    Government and Politics
  • Jerry Lindsley, director, Sacred Heart University Polling Institute

To speak with these experts, please contact Funda Alp at 203-396-8241.

How the Poll Was Conducted
The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute completed 800 interviews with residents nationwide between July 28 - August 7, 2008. The sample was generated proportional to population contribution in all 50 states. Statistically, a sample of 800 completed telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence level.