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Survey: Bush Approval Rating Slips as Americans Debate Iraqi War - 2004-04-29

A new public-opinion poll suggests domestic support is slipping for the war in Iraq. The New York Times-CBS News poll found that 47 percent of those surveyed believe the United States did the right thing in invading Iraq, down from 58 percent in March and 63 percent in December. National

The new poll has President Bush's public approval rating at 46 percent. His handling of the situation in Iraq is down to 41 percent, compared to 49 percent in the same poll last month and 59 percent in December.

But the president's expected Democratic opponent in the November election, Senator John Kerry, does not fare much better in this latest survey. Sixty-one-percent of those asked say Senator Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear, while 29 percent contend that he says what he believes.

The poll shows the presidential race about even.

The new poll numbers come in the midst of growing concern about the security situation in Iraq and increasing U.S. casualties there.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, a senior Democrat who opposed the war in Iraq, renewed his criticisms on the Senate floor.

"How long will America continue to pay the price in blood and treasure of this president's war?," he asked. "How long must the best of our nation's military men and women be taken from their homes to fight this unnecessary war in Iraq?"

But there is criticism from some unexpected sources as well. Retired General William Odom, who once headed the National Security Agency under President Ronald Reagan, told NBC's Today program that it is time for the United States to withdraw from Iraq.

"We have already failed," he said. "Staying in longer makes us fail worse. If we were a small power, we might have to worry about our so-called credibility. I do not think that is the issue. The issue is, how effectively are we going to use our power?"

Bush administration officials are doing their best to calm jittery nerves over Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference in Copenhagen that the United States will prevail in Iraq because the coalition is working to give Iraqis a better life than they had under Saddam Hussein.

"We are facing some tough days right now, but we will prevail over these tough days," said Mr. Powell.

Administration officials are also busy trying to reassure members of Congress, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"It is critical that we sustain the support of the Iraqi people," he commented. "There has been a lot of progress, progress in electricity, progress in school construction, enormous progress in the health care sector. The biggest deficiency, of course, is insecurity and unless there is security, all of the other progress does not matter."

The New York Times-CBS News poll found that 33 percent of those surveyed believe the costs of fighting in Iraq are worth it while 58 percent said they were not.

Political experts say the only way to make that figure go up is a turnaround on the ground in Iraq.

Allan Lichtman is an expert on the presidency at the American University in Washington.

"What happens on the ground, what happens in this very soon, impending handover [of sovereignty] to the Iraqis is what is going to matter," he said. "It is going to be events that count, not anything that the Bush campaign says about Iraq."

On the positive side for the president, the poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed approved of the way in which he is handling the threat of terrorism.