UPDATE: NY Times/CBS confirms Bush's poll numbers are dismal:
Mr. Bush’s overall standing was nevertheless unchanged from the previous week, resting at 36 percent approval to 57 percent disapproval — far below the level his fellow Republicans in Congress would like to see as they face the voters in November. Compounding the political problems of majority Republicans, the survey reflected significant dissatisfaction with the way Congress was doing its job. Voters in the poll indicated a strong preference for Democratic candidates this fall.
The Times/CBS News poll differed somewhat with other recent surveys that showed higher approval ratings for the president. In surveys for USA Today and CNN, which were conducted Friday through Sunday, 42 percent approved of how Mr. Bush was handling his job and gave Democratic Congressional candidates less of an edge.
The Gallup poll moves in a fairly tight range. Lately it's been bouncing between 37-40, and now has moved "upward" to 42% for the first time since February. That's a 2-5% improvement, and not much of a bounce, but better than the low of 31%.
Looking at the current poll data, Bush's rating has changed more among independents than among Republicans or Democrats. Thirty-six percent of independents approve of Bush in the current poll, compared with an average of 30% since June 1. The figures for Republicans (81% in the current poll, compared with 80% since June) and Democrats (11% compared with 9%) are essentially steady.
Women are another group that shows a more favorable evaluation of the president in the current poll. Forty-one percent of women approve of Bush, which is his best performance among them in any poll since January and well above the 34% approval he has been averaging among women this summer. His 43% approval rating among men is in line with his 42% average among them since June.
How do we know it's terrorism?
Terrorism is the only issue on which Bush's ratings have shown significant improvement from the last time they were measured. Ratings on each of the other issues are essentially unchanged. This pattern suggests that higher public support for Bush in general is likely tied to a sharper focus on the terrorism issue.
What suggests that it's temporary?
Married women with children, the "security moms" whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews.
That's exactly the group that the Gallup poll picks up on, and the CNN poll (less of a history) does the same. As Gallup notes, more polling is needed to see a real trend (climb or bounce). More from Prof. Franklin:
So the problem is what to make of this wide range of poll results, now reinforced on the high end by two identical results over the same polling dates. I remain reluctant to give full credit to polls that appear to be outliers. Give me a couple more in the 40+ range and I'll change my mind, but for now, I continue to think the trend estimate of 38% (and I'd subjectively say, 36.7-38%) is a better estimate of approval.
Perhaps more importantly, and giving Bush the small bounce, these are still dreadful numbers. Mini-bounces don't obscure the wretched disapproval in job performance or over the issues, especially Iraq (see CNN):
Opposition among Americans to the war in Iraq has reached a new high, with only about a third of respondents saying they favor it, according to a poll released Monday
These numbers do not bode well for Republicans in November.