The new New York Times/CBS poll shows Bush's job approval up (from 35% to a whopping 40%; he still faces more than 50% disapproval). The Times story about the poll attributes the improvement to more optimism about the economy, but there's also more support for the war in Iraq. On that subject, Oliver Willis makes a good point:
The only increase in support for the war in the poll was among Republicans
-- which, according to the CBS story about the poll, is true:
...48% of Americans think taking military action against Iraq was the right thing to do, up from 42% in October. An equal number thinks the U.S. ought to have stayed out of Iraq....
The rise in support for the war can be traced to an increase among members of the President’s own party; 83 percent of Republicans now think going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do, up from 74 percent in October. Support for the war remains unchanged among Democrats (22 percent) and Independents (43 percent).
I wonder if the same is true for optimism about the economy. Alas, I can't find a party breakdown for economy opinions in either of the two stories or in the complete results (PDF) at the Times site.
I don't think the economy or the war is really the reason for the improvement. The last poll was conducted from October 30 through November 1, a period when the hated Harriet Miers nomination had just been withdrawn. Samuel Alito was nominated midway through that polling period, but I think the anger on the right was still fresh -- righties weren't inclined to circle the wagons in Bush's defense with quite their usual dogged unanimity. That moment has passed, so Bush's polls are up. He may never get above 50% again, but he'll never go below 40% unless he does something else that ticks off the base like the Miers pick.