September 21, 2006


For Bush, cheaper gas is premium (Susan Page, 9/21/06, USA TODAY)

When it comes to President Bush's approval rating — the number that measures his political health — one factor seems more powerful than any Oval Office address or legislative initiative.

It's the price of a gallon of gas.

Statisticians who have compared changes in gas prices and Bush's ratings through his presidency have found a steady relationship: As gas prices rise, his ratings fall. As gas prices fall, his ratings rise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2006 7:44 AM

You're a bit late on this observation. The inverse relationship between gasoline price and presidential approval is so durable as to be a cliche. For example, during the Clinton years, the juice was as low as a buck a gallon. His personal approval rating stayed much higher than his personal behavior warranted. Consider also the effect of gas prices on the ratings for Jimmy Carter (ok even low gas prices might no have improved things for him).

Here's one. Given the source of your phrase, saying that thus-and-such is the new black is the old black.

Posted by: Ed Bush at September 21, 2006 8:39 AM

Take it all the way back to Nixon -- he probably would have lasted a little while longer in office if it weren't for the OPEC reaction after the Yom Kippur War, implementing the embargo that cause gasoline prices to jump from the 30-40 cent a gallon range to 60-70 cents (cheap in modern terms, but percentage-wise it nearly doubled the cost).

USA Today never has been shy in the past in pointing out the obvious at times, but it will be interesting to see whether or not the conspiracy theorists come out in force now about the pre-election price drop. I've already seen two media reports on the drop, which were seeking to find a collusion link between Big Oil and George W. Bush. They couldn't find it, since -- as the Calgary natural gas futures scandal showed -- there is a lot of money out there bet by hedge fund investors and others that were based on the global warming hurricane fears that predicted the Gulf would be hammered again. They took out futures contracts for high-priced oil and gas September deliveries, on the assumption prices would be in the $90-$100 range or so for resale by September, when the refineries, pipelines and the Gulf offshore platforms were all shut down again.

The Big One hasn't happened yet and prices are plunging as the contracts come due, but I'm sure someone at the New York Times or elsewhere will latch on to a wild tale of collusion between now and Nov. 7 and try to turn it into a commodities version of the Plame scandal if market forces don't cause prices to go back up on their own.

Posted by: John at September 21, 2006 9:20 AM

The correlation is ridiculous, but if it keeps the Dems out of power, keep it coming.

Posted by: erp at September 21, 2006 10:41 AM

John, I refrained from going back as far as Nixon in deference to the youngsters reading this blog.

As to USA Today, a staffer of same in its early days described it as "the newspaper for people whose attention spans are too short for television."

Posted by: Ed Bush at September 21, 2006 10:49 AM

If gas is the new bread, what is the new "circuses"?

Posted by: Brandon at September 21, 2006 11:59 AM

Reality TV

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2006 12:05 PM

I'll believe there might be a correlation if the gas prices actually drops lower than the previous "lows" around $2 before the big $3 spikes. Otherwise it's just another fluctuation around the general steady, linear increase since early 2002.

Note also that for the first 8 months of 2001, it seems both lines were steadily dropping, and the gas price one continued until Jan-Mar 2002. So the real question is, what did the conspiracy do then to cause this 5 year steady rise? Won't anyone uncover the Truth!? Think of The Children!

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 21, 2006 12:30 PM


No kidding. Sheesh, even when gas is expensive, it's not like anybody is going broke over it.

Difficult to believe it's that big a deal to so many folks, but I'll gladly accept the situation if it causes the GOP elephants to stampede.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 21, 2006 7:31 PM