Hey, who voted for this guy?

Bush may have won the election, but a new CBS/New York Times poll shows he doesn't have a mandate.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 3, 2005 2:48PM (EST)

From the You Reap What You Sow Department, there's this paragraph in today's New York Times:

"Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll."

It's all so surprising, except that it's not. While Bush and the mainstream media have talked of the "mandate" the voters gave the president in November, polls in the run-up to the election consistently showed that, whatever they thought of the president, voters didn't like the direction he was taking the country. Less than a month before the election, 57 percent of the respondents in a New York Times/CBS News poll said the country was heading in the wrong direction. In a Democracy Corps poll taken a few weeks before the election, 54 percent of the respondents said they wanted the country to move in a "significantly different" direction, while only 44 percent wanted to stay the course Bush had set. Even Bush's supporters told pollsters that they hoped his second term would be significantly different than his first.

But enough of those people voted for Bush to put him back in the White House, and the administration has clearly seen no reason to trim its sails. Bush has pushed hard for a Social Security privatization plan that the public doesn't want -- and wants less the more Bush talks about it. He has re-nominated extremist judges who didn't get through the Senate when he nominated them the first time, and he has called for both a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and an extension of the Patriot Act.

Did the voters give Bush a mandate for any of that? It appears not. According to the New York Times/CBS News poll out today, 63 percent of Americans say that the president has different domestic priorities than they do. On foreign policy, 58 percent of the respondents said that Bush doesn't share their priorities. And on issue after issue, voters told the pollsters that they way Bush is handling things isn't the way they wanted them to be handled. One example: Ninety percent of the respondents said that the federal deficit is a "very or somewhat serious problem," and 60 percent -- including 48 percent of "self-described conservatives" -- said they disapprove of the way Bush is handling it.

Sometime today in Ohio, 119,000 voters might take a moment to ask themselves what they've done.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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