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Recent US Polls Show Increasing Public Concern Over Iraq

George W. Bush
Several recent public opinion polls suggest Americans are losing confidence in President Bush and his handling of the situation in Iraq.

The latest survey was conducted by the New York Times and CBS News, and found that the president's overall job approval rating is now at 42 percent, down from 51 percent right after his re-election last year.

The poll also found that only 37 percent of those surveyed approve of the president's handling of Iraq, down from 45 percent in February.

This latest poll comes on the heels of other surveys done by the Gallup Organization and the Washington Post and ABC News that also show declining support for the president and his handling of both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware says the public is skeptical of the administration's contention that Iraq is well on its way to stability.

He spoke on NBC television.

"And I think there is this incredible gap between the reality on the ground and rhetoric back here, and I think it is causing us a loss of support among the American people, and if the administration does not straighten it out pretty soon, they are going to find they are going to have real trouble finding any consensus among the American people to do what we need to do in Iraq," Senator Biden said.

Administration officials reject that view, and insist the president will focus himself in the days ahead on building public support for his policy on Iraq, and his main domestic priority, pension reform.

Mr. Bush blames opposition Democrats for stalling much of his domestic agenda in the Congress.

"On issue after issue, they stand for nothing except obstruction, and this is not leadership," president Bush said.

Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledges the polls, but says the United States remains committed to success in Iraq.

"It is important we complete the mission. And to do that we do not want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we have got to stay long enough that, both from the standpoint of governance and the standpoint of security, that the Iraqi people can take care of themselves," added Mr. Cheney.

But even some members of the president's own Republican Party are questioning the policy on Iraq.

North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones voted for the war, but now supports a bipartisan proposal to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by October of 2006.

"After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution," Mr. Jones said.

Political analysts note that second term presidents often experience a decline in their approval ratings. However, President Bush's ratings for this point in his presidency do seem somewhat lower than average.

For example, former President Clinton's approval rating was 60 percent during the first year of his second term, while former President Ronald Reagan's stood at 59 percent at a similar point in his presidency.

Washington-based political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has been closely watching the president's poll numbers.

"This does reflect, I think, some weakness on the president's part, and if you thought that, just because he was re-elected that makes him stronger, you need to think again," he explained.

Another analyst, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, says the president should be concerned that the American public appears to be getting more pessimistic about the situation in Iraq.

"If he can begin to turn this very dangerous and unhappy situation in Iraq around, then he will have a reasonable chance to get some of his other second term agenda items passed. If he does not, it is easy to see how Iraq will become the quagmire that Vietnam was," noted Mr. Sabato.

But the latest polls do not contain much good news for members of Congress either.

Only 33 percent in the latest New York Times-CBS poll approved of the job Congress is doing, and just 19 percent said Congress shared their priorities.