Public opinion of President Bush's character has fallen overall, though fewer Americans think he "sucks" than did five months ago, according to a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center. It gauged public opinion on various aspects of the president's image, producing results that range from the very serious to the very amusing.
The percentage of people who view Bush as "trustworthy" has fallen from 62 percent to 49 percent since September 2003, while the perception that the president is a "strong leader" has dropped to 55 percent from 68 percent over the same period, according to the poll, which also assessed the president's job performance on Iraq, terrorism, foreign policy and the economy. His approval ratings in all four areas have dropped sharply over the last several months.
Since 2003, the perception that Bush is "warm and friendly" has dropped from 70 to 57 percent. In that time, the notion that the president is "well-informed" has fallen from 59 to 52 percent. However, 48 percent of the respondents still feel that the president "cares about people like me," though that number has fallen somewhat.
The most amusing results of the survey are the one-word descriptions, in which pollsters asked each respondent to come up with one word to describe Bush. "Honest" came in No. 1, but only 31 people said it, as opposed to the 38 people who said it in February. Here are the top responses in this week's poll, presented in descending order: honest, incompetent, arrogant, good, integrity, determined, liar, stupid, idiot, strong, leader. Compared to the last sampling in February, "good" is down 2, "integrity" is up 3, "arrogant" is up 9, and "incompetent" is up by a whopping 12 votes. No one volunteered "sucks" as a one-word encapsulation this time around, down from 7 in February.
The poll further cements the notion that America is a deeply polarized country, one in which citizens on opposite sides of the ideological divide appear to be experiencing different realities. But we're willing to do our part in bridging that gap. For instance, we are prepared to acknowledge that George W. Bush is determined. He is determined to pursue policies that aren't working, from tax cuts to the war on terrorism. And he is determined to ride his bicycle every day, no matter how serious his other obligations might be.