The so-called "rally effect," a unified atmosphere raising public spirits, can be seen in a bump in President Bush's re-election numbers, as well as in perceptions about the future of the nation's economy.
The latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, conducted earlier this week while Baghdad was falling to coalition troops, finds Americans rate current economic conditions slightly better than before the war started, but the dramatic jump is in the outlook on the economy's future.
Today, about one in five (21 percent) rate the economy positively, up from 14 percent a month ago, with those saying the economy is in "excellent" condition holding steady at one percent and all of the gain coming in those who now rate the economy as "good."
A more impressive 17 point bump is seen in expectations for the economy one year from now. Two-thirds think the economy will be in "a lot" (27 percent) or "a little" (39 percent) better shape next year. Last month, before the war started, just under half (49 percent) thought the economy would improve (16 percent "a lot" and 33 percent "a little") next year.
"It should be remembered that there was a significant boost in consumer confidence during the first Gulf War that quickly abated after the victory," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Unless this 'rally' is reinforced by real improvement, it could dissipate quickly."
Compared to Democrats, four times as many Republicans rate the economy positively (8 percent and 33 percent, respectively). There is also a large partisan gap on expectations, as fully 81 percent of Republicans think the economy will be better next year, while less than half of Democrats (47 percent) think so.
Respondents' expectations for their personal financial situation are similar to those on the national level. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) think their situation will be "a lot" (24 percent) or "a little" (39 percent) better next year. Over half (55 percent) rate their current financial situation positively, with nine percent saying "excellent" and 46 percent "good."
As concerns about the economy continue to affect the stock market, the poll finds confidence in the stock market today slightly lower than it was a year ago. The drop-off was almost all from those "very confident" in the market — 12 percent now compared to 18 percent in March 2002.
How much of an issue are the economic ratings for President Bush's re-election? Well, if the economy is deemed in bad shape at election time, voters may blame the administration. Fully 77 percent say the president and his administration can control the condition of the economy, with 26 percent saying Bush has "a lot" of control over the economy.
Even so, the president is certainly in better shape now than a couple months back, when the debate over military action in Iraq had been ongoing for months. If the election were held today, about half (51 percent) say they would vote to re-elect Bush, 26 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate, with the remaining 23 percent unsure.
In February 2003, essentially the mid-point of the president's term, the numbers were much closer — 42 percent said they would vote for Bush and 38 percent for the Democrat. President Bush's numbers today are similar to those seen back in early 2002. At that time he'd been in office for one year and, some would argue, a post-9/11 rally effect was evident.
When looking at Bush's overall job approval rating, after slipping to 55 percent in February, today 71 percent approve of the president's job performance. On Iraq, 75 percent approve of the job Bush is doing, but approval drops to 48 percent for his management of the nation's economy.
Polling was conducted by telephone April 8-9, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters.
1. Which major political party would you say is more in touch with the American people — (the Republican Party) or (the Democratic Party)? (ROTATE)
2. If the 2004 presidential election were held today, do you think you would be more likely to vote (to re-elect President Bush) or (for the Democratic candidate)? (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Re-elect Bush 2. Vote for Democrat 3. (Depends on Democrat/too soon to say) 4. (Not sure/Undecided)
3. On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?
4. A year from now, do you think the economy will be better or worse? Is that a lot (better/worse) or only a little (better/worse)?
5. How would you rate your personal financial situation — excellent, good, only fair or poor?
6. A year from now, do you think your personal financial situation will be better or worse?
7. How confident are you in the U.S. stock market?
SCALE: 1. Very confident 2. Somewhat confident 3. Not very confident 4. Not at all confident 5. (Not sure)
8. How much do you think President Bush and his administration can control the condition of the nation's economy?
Current Bush Approval Ratings — Summary