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Bush Bounce: Statistical Noise or a Modest Uptick? - by Scott Rasmussen

President Bush failed to get an immediate political bounce from the news that al-Zarqawi was killed last week. The reasons why cannot be determined with assurance, but let's first look at the numbers.

Just before al-Zarqawi was killed, 32% of Americans gave the President good or excellent marks for handling the situation in Iraq. That figure actually slipped a point to 31% in our poll conducted in the days following the good news.

At Rasmussen Reports, we also measure consumer and investor confidence on a daily basis. Following the capture of Saddam Hussein, there was an immediate bounce in the nation's economic confidence. By contrast, economic confidence in the U.S. actually fell slightly in the days following the al-Zarqawi news (it's now come back, but no surge is evident).

Same thing on the Bush Job Approval ratings... Initially, there was absolutely no bounce. Today's reading is 42%. That's up a bit from 40% and we will have to watch to see if that's statistical noise or a modest uptick. At the moment, the default assumption is statistical noise (the President's daily Job Approval ratings have been remarkably stable lately--within three points of the 40% level on 58 out of the 60 days).

A couple of other polls have been released suggesting that the President may have enjoyed a bounce from the latest news. But, the news stories assume more than the numbers can justify. Those polls are quite likely a reliable measure of current views, but they are comparing current readings to results from a month or more ago. Many factors (including statistical noise) could account for the slight improvement they have found.

The more intriguing question is why there was no bounce for the President. One possibility is that there have been so many potential "turning points" in Iraq that the public has adopted a wait and see attitude. Rather than celebrating a turning point, Americans may be waiting for proof in the form of decreased violence and reduced U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

Another possibility, suggested by a wealth of polling data, is that Iraq and the War on Terror are no longer the dominant voting issues. For the first time since 9/11, we will have an election decided on issues closer to home. Immigration, the economy, and other domestic topics may ultimately decide the critical election contests this November.