Granted, I am not a professional statiatrist, but I finally got around to looking at all of the now-notorious "34%" CBS poll (warning: PDF), and a number of interesting things jump out at me, the underlying theme of which is that Bush's base is the only thing keeping him afloat right now. As bad as Bush's numbers are (and they are baaaad), they are much, much worse when you look at the breakouts by party affiliation.
This may be terribly boring and eye-glazing stuff, or someone smarter and interestinger than me may have already covered it, but hey, it was new and interesting to me...
Bush approval rating among Republicans: 72%. Dems: 9%. Independents... 29%.
Favorability rating among Republicans: 65%. Dems: 8%. Indies... 23%.
As I said, I'm no expert, but it looks to me like Bush's approval/favorability rating among non-Republicans has to be somewhere in the teens. Yeah, Republicans like Bush, but everyone else thinks he's an asshole. (Here's a side question: What's Bush's approval/favorability rating among Democrats in Congress?)
Most important problem facing the U.S. today:
Terrorism? Republicans: 14%. Dems: 5%. Indies: 8%.
Moral Values? Republicans: 7%. Dems: 0%. Indies: 2%.
George Bush? Republicans: 2%. Dems: 8%. Indies: 4%.
(Generally speaking, Iraq and the economy were the two biggest problems, but Republicans were the only ones who ranked terrorism ahead of the economy, 14 to 11.)
I'm just going to simplify from this point on, and focus in on independents as the bellwether of the ordinary American with no particular dog in the partisan fight.
Approval of Bush on the economy: 26% approve/62% disapprove.
Approval of Bush on Iraq: 25/69.
Approval of Bush on terrorism (his, ahem, "strength"): 39/53.
Approval of Bush on energy: 20/66.
Approval of Congress: 22/68. Interestingly, lower than Republicans or Democrats, who are both in the low 30s. It might signal disgust with partisan squabbling instead of productive debate, oversight and lawmaking, but it could also signal disgust with the Republican agenda and the Democrats' total failure to oppose it.
People in government's willingness to take responsibility for their actions: 5/90. Again, lower than both Republicans and Democrats.
Bush administration too secretive: 60/33.
Now, this last one is to me the most inexplicable result of all. CBS asked for opinions on warrantless wiretaps in two different ways (half samples): One version included the Bushies' claim that they were needed to fight terrorism, the other didn't. Both the Republicans and Democrats, unsurprisingly, supported the wiretaps at a higher percentage with the addition of the terrorism verbiage, but the Independents didn't. With the terrorism language included, Independents overwhelmingly opposed warrantless wiretapping, 57 to 42. Without it, they narrowly favored it, 48 to 47.
The only two explanations I can think of are that it's either some kind of sampling aberration, or (pleasepleaseplease) that the Independents are becoming conditioned to associate "War On Terror" with "Republican Bullshit". Any statisticians in the hizzy? Can someone help me out here?
Now, of course, the other shoe with all of this is, What should the Democrats do to capitalize on it? I have already gone on record saying that they should not tack to the center to attract moderate voters. But hey: I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it. What the poll numbers are telling me is that the moderates/Independents are so thoroughly disgusted with Bush that they might as well be Democrats at this point, so why tack to the center at all? To me it's an invitation to be a proudly aggressive and adversarial opposition party, and if the Republicans want to squeal about how mean and obstructionist the Democrats are, let 'em. The "mushy middle" will be grateful that someone is finally trying to stop the Republican juggernaut of corruption and incompetence. The Independents are begging for a strong, viable alternative, so please, please for the love of God and all that is holy, GIVE THEM ONE.