Friday, February 02, 2007
Tulsa World: Bush's rating continues to slide in state
A poll shows that less than half of Oklahoma is happy with the president. President Bush's approval rating in Oklahoma is below 50 percent for the first time since he took office, according to a survey of 752 voters conducted Jan. 19-21.
Forty-seven percent said they approve of the job Bush has done as president, with an identical share saying they disapproved. Six percent were undecided.
Bush's approval rating was 52 percent in October and 59 percent in January 2006.
"The bottom line is, he continues to slide," said poll consultant Al Soltow, University of Tulsa vice president for research. "He peaked at 89 percent at the end of 2001, was at 77 percent in (early) 2003, and it's been a steady decline since then."
Despite the drop, Bush remains more popular in Oklahoma than just about anywhere else in the country. A Gallup Poll conducted the week before the Oklahoma Poll put Bush's approval rating at 35 percent nationwide.
While the war in Iraq has dominated the last four years of Bush's presidency, it apparently is not the sole reason for his loss of support among Oklahomans. Soltow pointed out that Bush was given somewhat higher marks for his handling of the war on terrorism than for his job performance as a whole.
"The numbers suggest Bush's over all decline has more to do with domestic issues than foreign policy," said Soltow.
Fifty-three percent said they approve of Bush's handling of terrorism.
"Saddam had to be taken out," said one of Bush's supporters, Sarah Martin of Broken Arrow. "I think we would have had problems here if we hadn't. If the commanders say we need more soldiers, then that's what we should do."
Ila Barnard of Tulsa is at the other end of the spectrum.
"We went over there for no reason -- not the right reason, anyway," she said. "We didn't have no business going over there in the first place."
Responses about Bush and the Iraq conflict broke along party lines, as 75 percent of registered Republicans approved of the president's overall job performance. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans say he's done a good job in the war on terror.
But among registered Democrats and independents, many of whom have voted Republican in the recent past, Bush's approval rating is below 30 percent.
Foster Berry of Tulsa, a registered Democrat who says he usually votes Republican, said he's still behind Bush but concedes that "he's falling short in some areas -- but most presidents do at some time."
There are also striking divisions along geographic and economic lines.
Less than 39 percent of respondents with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 gave Bush a favorable rating, compared with almost 54 percent for those in higher income brackets.
Fifty-six percent of the under-$50,000 sample said the Iraq invasion was a mistake from the start, compared with 42 percent in higher income brackets.
By similar margins, lower-income Oklahomans were less likely to support sending more troops to Iraq, approve of the president's war on terrorism or believe additional troops can stabilize Iraq.
"It's the old story," said David Bryson, a disabled Vietnam War veteran who lives near Muskogee. "Rich man's war, poor man's fight.
"To me, there's not one drop of American blood that should have been spilled there. War creates money, money for the rich. War boosts the economy."
Barnard, clearly agitated, said: "I almost get angry when I think of the loss of life. I do get angry; there's no 'almost' about it. And what have we gained? Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
Geographically, Bush's support is highest in the west and northwest and least in the east and southeast. In the seven-county Tulsa metropolitan area, Bush's approval rating is down to 43 percent -- 12 points lower than in the seven-county Oklahoma City metro area.
In the rural Second Congressional District, covering the eastern one-third of the state, Bush's approval rating is at 33 percent, comparable to national levels.
In the First District, made up of Tulsa, Washington and Wagoner counties, the president's support is 46 percent.
Overall, Tulsa is noticeably less supportive than Oklahoma City is of Bush and his Iraq policy. Thirty-eight percent in the Tulsa metro area said they support sending more troops to Iraq, compared with 48 percent in Oklahoma City; 52 percent in Tulsa said the initial invasion was a mistake, compared with 39 percent in Oklahoma City.
Pamela Pentecost of Tulsa said she supports the president but wants the war to end.
"I like him as a man," she said. "I like a lot of things he's done. I'm not crazy about the war, but in general my life is better."
Paul Humphries III of Grove said Bush has "probably done everything right except one thing. When he saw they were going to have an insurgency (in Iraq), he maybe should have hit it harder.
"The Democrats have been so against this war, they've been against whatever he wants to do."