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New Poll Shows Bush Approval Rating Drops to Lowest Point in his Presidency


A new public opinion poll shows President Bush's job approval rating is at its lowest level since he took office five years ago. In recent U.S. political history, only former presidents Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon had lower approval ratings. VOA's Bill Rodgers takes a look at what's behind the numbers.

The latest poll by the New York Times newspaper and CBS News shows just 31 percent of the people surveyed approve of the way President Bush is doing his job.

The survey shows Mr. Bush's approval rating has declined from a high of more than 80 percent in late 2001, to what is now the lowest point of his presidency.

Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution says there is one main reason for the decline. "Iraq. Iraq is the absolute bedrock of why there is opposition to him."

Rising gasoline prices and other problems have undercut the president's support, but people most often cite a perceived lack of progress in the Iraq war.

Mr. Hess adds, "Iraq should be very, very troubling and the way to suggest that is to compare it with Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson and the same period: three years into a war. Americans are more unhappy now about Iraq by at least 10 (percentage) points than they were about Vietnam at this point in that war."

Random interviews on the streets of Washington, DC, bear that out. Chris Winfrey says, "I'm a Republican so I'm a Bush fan but I think we may have been in Iraq a little too long." Ruth Bell has an opposing perspective, "I think Iraq was a huge mistake. I think if he had listened to the people in his father's own administration who chose not to go into Iraq he might have learned something important. Now we're stuck there."

Fewer than 40 percent of Americans surveyed believe going to war in Iraq was the correct decision, while two-thirds say they have little or no confidence Mr. Bush can end the war successfully.

The results of the New York Times-CBS poll are similar to other recent surveys, indicating Mr. Bush's Republican Party could face losses in November's Congressional elections -- according to Stephen Hess. "If he is to recover he has got to do it very fast, he has got to do it within six months. The November election is absolutely key for whether he is to have any success in the last two years of his administration."

Republicans now control both Houses of Congress, but opposition Democrats hope to change this in November. Mr. Bush is probably well aware of the stakes as he takes part in town meetings across the country, where he is usually well received. As for the polls, Mr. Bush has said he ignores them and tries to do the best job he can.