Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Support for Bush hits a record low

BAD NEWS The death and destruction in Iraq has not been made much more palatable by administrative progress there, according to the latest polling figures

AP , WASHINGTON

As the war in Iraq drags on, US President George W. Bush's job approval and the public's confidence in the direction in which he is taking the nation are at their lowest levels since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

About 35 percent of respondents said they thought the country was headed in the right direction, while 43 percent said they approved of the job being done by Bush. Just 41 percent said they supported his handling of the war, also a low-water mark.

"There's a bad mood in the country, people are out of sorts," said Charles Jones, a presidential scholar and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Iraq news is daily bad news. The election in Iraq helped some, and the formation of the government helped some, but dead bodies trump the more positive news."

California retiree Carol Harvie was quick to mention Iraq when asked about Bush.

"I don't think he's read his history enough about different countries and foreign affairs," said Harvie, a political independent who lives near San Diego, a region with military bases. "Anything they try to do in Iraq has spelled trouble. I think he bit off more than he can chew."

Car bombings and attacks by insurgents killed 80 US troops and more than 700 Iraqis last month, and Pentagon officials acknowledge the level of violence is about the same as a year ago, when they were forced to scrap a plan to substantially reduce the US troop presence in Iraq.

Bush administration officials say the key to getting US forces out of Iraq is training Iraqis to provide their own security.

While Bush has received generally low scores for his handling of domestic issues for many months, most Americans had been supportive of his foreign policy. Not any more.

The poll conducted for AP by Ipsos found that 45 percent support Bush's foreign policy, down from 52 percent in March.

Bush's popularity reached its zenith shortly after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when various polls found nearly 90 percent approved of the job he was doing. It was close to 80 percent when Ipsos started tracking attitudes about Bush at the start of 2002, and was just over 50 percent when the AP-Ipsos poll started in December 2003.

But since winning re-election in November, Bush has seen his poll numbers sag.

Bush, who faces no more elections, has responded to past dips in the polls by saying: "You can find them going up, and you can find them going down."

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