Now, as far as my own personal popularity goes, I don’t make decisions based upon polls. I hope the American people appreciate that. You can’t make difficult decisions if you have to take a poll. That’s been my style ever since I’ve been the president.
This is nonsense and always has been. Bush spends millions on polling, just like other presidents and politicians. As the Washington Monthly reported in April 2002, he leans most heavily on Market Strategies, of Southfield, Mich., which has been around since the first Bush presidency, and Voter/Consumer Research, of Washington, D.C., which has worked with Bush since his 1991 campaign to raise a Texas sales tax to help pay for his baseball team’s stadium.
Article author Joshua Green notes that the “Bush doesn’t do polls” policy even extends to the president’s pollsters ...
who are discouraged from identifying themselves as such. The strategy seems to be working. A brief, unscientific survey of White House reporters revealed that most couldn’t name [Jan van Lohuizen, of Voter/Consumer Research] as Bush’s primary pollster (most guessed [Matthew] Dowd, who doesn’t actually poll). For his part, van Lohuizen sounded genuinely alarmed when I contacted him.
In addition to rejecting the idea that polls help him make decisions, Bush says polls don’t help him “fine-tune” political or PR messages, which is exactly how pollsters help Bush most, Green shows. This is confirmed in the coldest of fashions a couple of years later when, at the time of his testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, Bush refuses to express regret or admit mistakes regarding the government’s reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“One [Bush] adviser said the White House had examined polling and focus group studies in determining that it would be a mistake for Mr. Bush to appear to yield and apologize for mistakes,” said a New York Times article printed April 15, 2004.
At least this all makes for some darkly funny irony.
“If I tried to fine-tune my messages based upon polls,” Bush is quoted as saying, “I think I’d be pretty ineffective.”