New poll: Big Daddy no more

The latest CBS poll released today shows that a majority of Americans are finally getting the message about Bush's performance in the aftermath of Katrina:

President George W. Bush's overall response to Katrina meets with disapproval today – a dramatic change from the public’s reaction just after the storm hit on August 29th. Last week, in the two days immediately after Katrina made landfall, a majority of Americans said they approved of Bush's response, although more than a third were not sure. Now, only 38 percent approve. A majority [58 percent] disapproves.
This marks a significant shift from the WaPo/ABC News poll taken Friday that showed a substantial 46 percent approved of the way Bush handled relief efforts. So this dive in his numbers made me happy until I remembered what the polls said about John Kerry's future just before the election.

But digging deeper into the CBS survey, there are signs that this time Dubya's fall from favor may not just be an illusory or temporary phenomena. Commenting on the outcome of the 2004 elections, Bill Clinton remarked that in a time of fear people "will follow someone who is strong but wrong not weak but right." And so these two pieces of data spell very bad news for a president who has over and again received a pass from voters for his so-called strength:
Now, just 48% of Americans say Bush has strong qualities of leadership – the lowest number ever for the President in this poll. A year ago, as he was campaigning for re-election, 64% of voters said Bush was a strong leader. And in the weeks after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, 83% of Americans said the President had strong qualities of leadership.
There has even been a decline in just the last week in the perception of the government’s ability to protect Americans from terrorist attacks – 40% now have little or no confidence, up from 26% a week ago.
There are also signs that the public is paying attention to the underlying reasons for the catastrophe: "Most Americans – 69% - point to cutbacks in spending on New Orleans' levees that had taken place in recent years as a factor in the flooding – including 45% who call that a major factor."

But since we can't have everything, the survey did include one very disappointing result:
However, most say the race and class of those in need did not play a role in the speed of the response. 50% say the fact that most of those left stranded were African-American did not impact how quickly authorities responded; Americans say that had most of those left behind been white, the response would have been the same."
The numbers are hardly surprising in a country where we treat race and class as taboo subjects. One giant hurricane and a couple of articles aren't going to change our minds, not unless we decide to talk about these issues every day, in the media, at the pulpit, and in our own living rooms. [LINK via Eschaton]

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