Ok, so I've got a theory:
What if a president's poll numbers reflect not so much of "how good a job he is doing" but "if the person thinks the President is dumber than they are"?
Its seems quite reasonable that a person of "median" intelligence would be considered "smart" by the lower 50% of people and "dumb" by the lower 50%.
Right off the bat, W was seen as, well... "not so bright" by The Elites. Right after 9/11, W's approval rating was in the high 80's to 90's. Sure, we could interpret this as, "The country's rallying around Bush" but we might also interpret this as a number of The Elites thinking, "Well, at least he didn't put out his own eye with the megaphone."
Over time, Bush did more -- or some would argue didn't do more -- to endear himself to Americans. Once people realized that W's inability to recall a sentence of his ghost-written speach without inventing "new" words was not nervousness but an inability to even read, more people became "Elites". Poll numbers headed down.
After our invasion of Iraq, support remained high. Perhaps a majority of people in the country figured, "Well, ok, I'm not sure why we invaded Iraq, but I'm not really sure where Iraq is anyway, so maybe he knows something we don't." Others may have thought, "Ok, maybe we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, but Afghanistan earned it and 50% ain't a bad batting average."
Later, when it was revealed that our military was sent into a voluntary war without armor, more Elites were spontaneously generated as people thought, "Ok, so maybe I don't know where Iraq is, but a president should damn-well know where his *troops* are."
Years later, even more Elites sprang into being when they watched fellow citizens starving and drowning in fetid water for four days without even an aknowlegement from government.
Perhaps they were thinking, "Ok, I might not know how to find Iraq on a map, but a president that can't even locate a major American metropolis? That's dumb."
Vast portions of the electorate known as "Hunting Americans" quickly awoke as members of the Elite when they watched the VP shoot another man in the face. Sure, some thought, "Oh my God, The Veep shot a man in the face and had that man appologize to *him*!" Other's thought, "Cool! He took out a lawyer!". Hunter with integrity instantly knew that alcohol should never be mixed with hunting and any person who shoots another is 100% responsible. Not suprisingly, they became Elites.
Other's didn't necessarily become Elites when they later figured out, "What? The lawyer *lived*" or alternately thought, "How could you miss at *that* range?". Not Elites, but enough to lose a few votes.
So finally we arrive at 35%. A full ( wait a minute... 100 minus 35... carry the 1... ) 65% of American's think they the president is dumber than they are. Then comes the bomb: gas prices.
"America is addicted to fossil fuels", says Bush. Overnight, 5% of the population pupates and emerge as Elites as they think to themselves the next morning, "Welcome to 2006, Mr. Carter." The nation has know this for 30 years now and the president preaches this from the podium as though it were revealed to you last night in a burst of insight? Some begin to wonder, "Is this why he wanted to go to the Moon? Did he think there was oil there?" -5 points.
So here we are: The Shining Beacon of Democracy with a president that only 29% of Americans think is smarter than they are.
One way to interpret this would be to think, "Man! We need better schools! A full 29% think that *this guy* is smarter than they are!"
But the "glass half full" group might be thinking, "Man! Talk about 'No Child Left Behind'. Even the children are in line thinking this guy is a nincompoop!"
Personally, I think Bush may actually go down in history as The Great Educator. In the span of 6 years, he's made 79% of Americans into Intellectual Elites.