Half of those surveyed told Gallup that the words "honest and trustworthy" did not apply to Bush -- easily his worst rating on the honesty question.
This is a dramatic change from past years. Even when the issues appeared to work against Bush during his first term, the Calvinist public's desire to have a "moral" president seemed to give Bush just enough cover -- motivating his religious conservative base and appeasing just enough moderate voters.
When Bush first ran for the presidency, his supporters spoke vaguely of diminished "trust" in the White House, leaving unsaid those other two L-words: "lie" and "Lewinsky." They praised Bush as an honest, upright gentleman. Some of this praise almost sounded satirical. For example, in the heat of the 2000 election, Peggy Noonan wrote:
... Mr. Gore tells a lot of lies ... (and) he lies a lot even for a politician. But I think it has also been established that Mr. Bush not only does not lie but is probably incapable of lying. He is, transparently and simply, not a liar but a plainspoken teller of the truth as he is able to see it. This is a wonderful thing in anyone .... A palpably honest man running for office in the Clinton era!When you feel moved to describe any candidate for president (either a "D" or an "R") as "probably incapable of lying," it's time to stop drinking the Kool-aid. Perhaps the disclaimer in Noonan's words is "as he is able to see it." Alas, much like Reagan, Bush's delusions and intellectual deficits are a potential defense.
Gallup has asked its "honesty" question for a number of years. Here is the trend in this question during Bush's presidency:
Bush "is honest and trustworthy" -- does it apply or not?
February 9-11, 2001 ......... Applies 64% Doesn't apply 29% No opinion 7%
April 29-May 1, 2002 ....... Applies 77% Doesn't apply 20% No opinion 3%
June 27-29, 2003 ............. Applies 65% Doesn't apply 33% No opinion 2%
February 16-17, 2004 ....... Applies 55% Doesn't apply 42% No opinion 3%
Sept. 16-18, 2005 ............. Applies 47% Doesn't apply 50% No opinion 3%