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US West Coast Gives Bush Mixed Reviews on Economy, Praise on Terrorism - 2002-01-31

President Bush is riding a wave of popularity as a result of his handling of the war on terrorism. The President's handling of the economy is getting mixed reviews on the U.S. west coast, reflected in a recent poll and in comments after Tuesday's State of the Union address.

In a California poll, released the day after the President's address to Congress, more than seven in 10 Californians approve of Mr. Bush's job performance. The California Field Poll, conducted in the weeks before the address, shows more than 80 percent of respondents approve of the President's response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

According to the poll, 57 percent of Californians approve of Mr. Bush's handling of the U.S. economy. However, Californians are divided on the President's economic stimulus package, which would boost spending on defense, security, health care and education, and also cut taxes. Forty percent of respondents favor the Republican proposals, which the President is promoting, while nearly the same number favor the alternative Democratic package.

One critic, business economist Edward Leamer of the University of California, Los Angeles, would have liked to hear more in the President's speech about strengthening the federal pension and health-care plans for the elderly. Under both government programs, contributions have failed to keep pace with the growing demand. Mr. Leamer faults both Republicans and Democrats for not addressing the issue in ways he considers effective.

"We have a big time bomb that's going to go off in five years or 10 years," he said. "That's retirement, because we've got to worry about Social Security [pensions] and we've got to worry about Medicare [the health care program for seniors]. And nothing in Washington is treating that very, very serious problem."

Some Los Angeles residents, like one university student, were impressed with what they heard in the State of Union address. The student sees a more confident president at the end of his first year in office. "The address was well done. He's speaking a lot better. I remember his inaugural address, and I was not a Bush supporter, so I was very critical when he first spoke," the student said. "He used to mispronounce words. And so I think he's grown a lot as a speaker."

Another poll released Wednesday by a Los Angeles television station shows more than seven in 10 respondents give the President a "good" or "excellent" rating in his job performance, with two-thirds saying that under the President's leadership the United States is winning the war on terrorism.