Homeland security reorganization may be good politics

While there were a multitude of sound policy reasons for President Bush's decision to centralize most federal homeland security functions in a single department, it looks like it may have been a bit of good politics as well.

Most national polling since the first of the year has shown the president's approval ratings in a gradual decline, at a rate of roughly 2 points a month, starting out at 80 percent in two combined January surveys by Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report and dropping to 74 percent in March and to 71 percent in May.

Disapproval ratings rose from 18 percent in January to 24 percent in March and to 26 percent in May. The Gallup Organization's polling reflected a smaller drop, from 84 percent in early January to 77 percent in their late May polling, with disapproval ratings going from 12 percent at the beginning of the year to 17 percent at the end of May.

Then the last Gallup Poll, taken before the president's Thursday night announcement of a new Homeland Security Department, showed his approval rating dropping 7 points in a week, to 70 percent, the lowest since Sept. 11, with his disapproval rating up 6 points to 23 percent, the highest since the September tragedy.

While it is dangerous to read too much into any single poll, what in effect happened is that the Gallup polling simply came into line with most other surveys that showed the president in the low 70's and on the verge of dropping into the 60's--still good numbers, but no longer considered in the same "stratospheric" category as before.

There also was an intangible that seemed to be taking hold before the announcement. Pollsters and other political operatives had begun suggesting that there was a certain uneasiness among Americans in recent weeks that things did not seem to be in control. There was a certain frustration from the endless warnings of upcoming terrorist acts against our country and that we still had not managed to track down Osama bin Laden.

In some private polling--but not in the Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report samplings--there was also a drop in "right direction" numbers, with the "wrong track" column surging. While it was not directly rubbing off on the president, it was not what a president's advisers would like to see happening.

With the reorganization announcement, Bush came across as proactive and in charge. While Democrats could carp that he took too long, the move appears to be enough to at least temporarily stabilize the decline.

In the combined May 17-19 and June 7-9 Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report national polls, of a total of 1,565 registered voters, 72 percent approved of the job Bush was doing, up a point from the previous pair of surveys in May.

But among the 790 interviews that were conducted Friday through Sunday nights, his approval rating hit 74 percent, a gain that is inside the 2.5-point margin of error. It is therefore not statistically significant, but still certainly welcomed by Republicans who have lately seen the arrow pointed pretty consistently downward.

Looking deeper into the survey, there was little change. In the most recent pair of surveys, 54 percent said the country was headed in the right direction, same as the two May surveys, with 40 percent saying wrong track. Again, no change.

In terms of handling the economy, 63 percent approved the job the president was doing, the same as in May, with 34 percent disapproving, down a point from May.

In "handling domestic issues like health care, education, the environment and energy," 55 percent approved of his performance, down a point from May, with 42 percent disapproving, up 1 point. In "handling foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism," 75 percent approved, up 2 points from May, with 22 percent disapproving, down 2 points.

When given three choices--that if the election were held today were they inclined to vote to re-elect Bush as president, would consider someone else or would definitely vote for someone else--48 percent said they would definitely vote for Bush, no change from May. Another 26 percent said they would consider someone else, up a point, while 23 percent said they would definitely vote against him, down a point.

Republicans continued to hold a narrow lead on the generic congressional ballot test, this time a 44 percent to 40 percent advantage in the two most recent surveys, up from 43-40 percent in the two May surveys.

While this does not necessarily indicate that Republicans will hold the House, it does suggest that the dynamics necessary for Democrats to win a disproportionate share of the closest races, which they need to do to completely close the gap, do not now exist, although the election is now just a bit under five months away.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.