January 24, 2008

Laura Bush’s Declining Favorability

Views of Nancy Pelosi Also More Negative

Summary of Findings

Laura Bush, once almost universally liked, has seen her favorability ratings slip along with her husband’s over the past three years. Currently, a slim majority of Americans (54%) say they have a favorable impression of the First Lady, down from 70% in August of 2004. The number saying they have an unfavorable view of Laura Bush has risen from 18% to 29% over the same time period.

While trending downward, views of Laura Bush have changed less dramatically than have views of her husband over the past five years. The poll, conducted Dec. 19-30 among 1,430 adults nationwide, finds Laura Bush’s favorability rating has fallen by 16 points since August 2004; by contrast, George W. Bush’s favorability has declined by 25 points over the same period (from 58% to 33%).

In 2004, a narrow majority of Democrats (52%) viewed Laura Bush favorably. Currently, just 39% of Democrats have a positive impression of the First Lady, while 44% express an unfavorable opinion. Laura Bush’s favorability among independents also is down substantially, from 68% in 2004 to 51% in the current poll. And while nine-in-ten conservative Republicans (90%) continue to view the First Lady positively, her image has slipped among moderate and liberal Republicans from 85% to 68% over the past three years. One-in-five moderate and liberal Republicans (20%) express an unfavorable opinion of Laura Bush, compared with just 4% in 2004.

Laura Bush has long received mixed favorability ratings from younger Americans, but the balance of opinion has turned more negative in the latest poll. Just 39% of those under age 30 express a favorable opinion of Laura Bush, down from 53% in 2004. Meanwhile, the share expressing an unfavorable opinion has risen from 31% to 46% over the same period. Opinions of Laura Bush remain, on balance, favorable among Americans age 30 and older, but her favorability ratings are down across all age ranges.

Differences in the views of younger and older Americans exist even when party identification is taken into account. In other words, younger Democrats, independents and Republicans give Laura Bush lower favorability ratings than their older partisan counterparts.

More Express Unfavorable View of Nancy Pelosi

More than a year after her election as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s public image has declined. In December 2006, 32% of Americans said they had a favorable impression of Pelosi, compared with 25% today. Negative opinions of Pelosi have increased from 27% to 38%.

A growing share of Republicans, independents and Democrats are expressing an unfavorable view of the Speaker of the House. Republican opinion was already decidedly unfavorable a year ago, and has become increasingly so as Pelosi’s visibility has increased. Independent opinion was evenly mixed a year ago (29% favorable, 26% unfavorable) but unfavorable opinions now outnumber favorable ones by two-to-one (38% unfavorable, 19% favorable). In December 2006, more than twice as many Democrats expressed positive views of Pelosi than negative opinions (46% vs. 17%); but currently, the balance of opinion is closer (42% vs. 26%), as negative opinions of Pelosi have risen by nine points, from 17% in late 2006 to 26%.