- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2008

Conservative Republicans have not deserted President Bush as his last days in the White House ebb away.

About three-fourths - 72 percent - approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing 40 days before he leaves office, according to a Gallup Poll released Thursday.

“George W. Bush remains popular among conservative Republicans despite his low overall approval rating,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

“There’s a driving force behind this finding. These are likely to be strong, hawkish, national security conservatives who remember September 11, and believe President Bush kept the country safe,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who has advised lawmakers in both House and Senate.

“Historically, this is actually a lower number than we might normally see. The range has been in the mid-80s and upward. Still, this kind of support from staunch conservatives is good news for the president. These people remain in his camp,” Mr. Bonjean said.

Half of respondents who described themselves as conservative with no political frills also approved of Mr. Bush. Positive sentiments for the president are not quite as warm among other Republicans: 44 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans gave him the thumbs up.

Another 38 percent of regular churchgoers approve of Mr. Bush, along with more than a third of married people, whites, Southerners and Protestants or other Christians, the survey found.

Among all Americans, Mr. Bush’s approval rating is 29 percent - a slight improvement over his 25 percent favorable rating during the presidential election in early November.

“Further, modest improvement is not out of the question,” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Bush, incidentally, holds the highest presidential approval rating - 90 percent on Sept. 14, 2001 - on Gallup’s records, which have been tallied since the days before World War II.

Still, he has plenty of critics. Only 5 percent of liberal Democrats approve of him; the figure is 7 percent among blacks and moderate Democrats, 9 percent among liberals. Among conservative Democrats, the number was a more forgiving 14 percent; among Hispanics 19 percent.

The survey of 9,000 adults was conducted Dec. 1-9 and has a margin of error of one percentage point.

Other research reveals some promise in evolving positive sentiment toward Mr. Bush, particularly in light of national security.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 52 percent of voters said the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terror, up from 39 percent a year ago.

Both CBS/New York Times and CNN surveys found that 53 percent of the respondents said things were “going well” in Iraq. An ABC News/Washington Post survey found that 62 percent said the war was going well, with another 62 percent agreeing that the U.S. would not be attacked by terrorists again.

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