IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball' analysis of Bush's poll numbers

Matthews and O'Donnell discuss the public's perception of the president
/ Source:

After the release Thursday of a Wall Street Journal poll in which President Bush's overall job rating is at the lowest point of his presidency and only 41 percent of the nation believing he is "honest and straightforward," MSNBC 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews and MSNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent Norah O'Donnell discussed the state of the Bush White House Thursday on 'Hardball.'

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the 'Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I never have seen numbers like this, the lowest numbers we have seen for President Bush's entire term. Only 34 percent of Americans now believe this country is heading in the right direction.  That's a third of the country.  The president's approval rating, 46 percent, I think it's the second lowest he's ever had.
His job approval on the economy, which is really biting some people, down to 39 percent.  What's behind these numbers?  is there worse news here?

NORAH O'DONNELL:  Well, our pollsters tell us that Americans are deeply dissatisfied with Washington and with politicians. 

The reasons the president's numbers are low is because there has been a drop-off in terms of blue-collar workers, seniors and independents.  It's all part of this negative mood that is out there in the country.  The president's numbers have been getting worse, not better.  The congressional numbers are really atrocious, the worse they've been since 1994. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's talk about the economy and how it goes together with blue-collar workers.  I mean, regular working people have to drive a lot to work.  Gas prices, Social Security questions, is that all a part of this? 

O'DONNELL:  It is all part of it, high gas prices.  People don't feel like they are making a lot of money in the market.  They also think that there is not a lot of substance coming out of Congress.

They hear a lot of bickering.  Our poll also found for the first time in the polling, the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, a net negative for both parties.  People don't like Republicans.  People don't like Democrats.  So, even though Republicans are controlling Congress and Congress is getting a bad rating, it doesn't mean the Democrats are doing any better.  The Democrats are not providing any alternative message.  And that may give us some clues about whether there will be a change in party in Congress in 2006. 

MATTHEWS:  What does it say to members of Congress?  Supposed you're a senator right now and you're reading the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, a member of Congress, and you're trying to figure out, 'what does this tell me about how to behave the next couple months?'

The bad smell coming from Washington, almost stinky-poo in a way. 

’They don't like the way it looks.  And I don't blame them.  Is this going to encourage senators to be a little more calm, a little more thoughtful in the way they look at the Supreme Court nomination? 

O'DONNELL:  That is exactly what our pollsters say.  Look at the mood of the country. 
They think that those up on Capitol Hill are engaged in partisan sniping.  This is not a good environment to have a fight over a Supreme Court nominee.  It will make them look even worse if they don't handle themselves in a way that perhaps the country approves of, in a meaningful, thoughtful way. 

MATTHEWS:  So, filibustering and keeping the thing going and not getting to a decision ... will probably work into the public sense that these guys are screwing up? 

O'DONNELL:  Exactly.  And what is interesting about our poll, too, is there were lot of questions about the Supreme Court.  A majority of the American people say they care a lot about who the president appoints to the Supreme Court.  A majority say they don't want someone who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.  But a majority of them also say they believe that there should be religion in public life, like the Ten Commandments.  So, maybe some mixed signals, but the American people have weighed in, in this poll and showed what they want in a Supreme Court nominee.

MATTHEWS:  What about the question of the president's integrity?  I saw a bad number there.

O'DONNELL:  It's interesting.  For the first time, we have seen that the president's personal ratings have decreased, today, 41 percent.  It was 50 percent in January about whether the president is honest and trustworthy. 
Our pollsters, a bipartisan group of pollsters, say this is significant, because whatever you think of how the job the president is doing as president, that goes up and down all the time.  He's always been very strong on his personal ratings, whether he's tough, leadership, trustworthy.  This is the first time we've seen a drop. 

MATTHEWS:  And ... the public have always liked this president more than some of his policies. 

Watch each weeknight at 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.