This isn’t news to me, but it’s the first time I’ve seen an actual statistical analysis of the President’s approval ratings versus terror warnings. The crux argument or hypothesis is simple human nature. People look towards higher authority (be it their God or their leaders) in time of great strife… but could give a rats ass about them when things are fine. There is a good book called “The Progress Paradox“, which goes into more detail for those that are interested.
The results match up quite well. Every time the president is getting heat (say for indictments over the Valerie Plame outing) – Al Qaeda appears to scare us back into the corner. If things are getting really bad, the Department of Homeland (In)Security will play with their color coded chart. Oh no, we’re up to orange! I guess it’s not safe to go to the store and buy some pears today. Terrorists might get me.
Of course, those “authentic” documents come into question when Al Qaeda later calls them forgeries. So these terrorists who go out of their way to claim responsibility for all these attacks, all of a sudden retreat when we supposedly stumble upon a letter? This is as stupid as the under cover British soldiers getting caught dressed up as insurgents and shooting at the Iraqi police.
Point being, Bush might say he hates Al Qaeda, Saddam, Syria, Iran, and everyone else we’ve deemed terroritsts… but it’s the best thing that’s happened to him. If it wasn’t for 9/11 and Iraq, where would he be? 9/11 alone gave him a 30 percentage point gain! Bush would have to hand every american a cool 10 grand before he would see a non-terrorism related ratings jump of that magnitude (IMHO).
Update by Stephen VanDyke: Rick beat me to this post by a few minutes, so I want to add that MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann did a great story on this tonight, (video links). Sayeth former Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge looking back on the terror alert level changes, issued on his watch:
“More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it. Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on (alert): there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said ‘for that?’“
We’ve also covered these weird coincidences in the past. It’s good to see them finally getting some mainstream media coverage.