Polling data on President Bush's approval rating indicates recent decline

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

A new CBS News poll reports that Americans are increasingly negative about the war in Iraq, and that President Bush's job approval ratings, now down to 34%, continued to decline. The telephone survey of a nationwide random sample of 1136 adults was conducted March 9-12, 2006 and results were released on March 13. The maximum margin of statistical sampling error for results based on the full sample is plus or minus three percentage points. Some questions were only asked of half the sample. The poll was conducted shortly before the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, and covered feelings about the war in Iraq and overall impressions of President Bush.

A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll also released on March 13 put the President's approval rate at 36%. Other polls conducted over a similar period had similar results, including those by NBC-Wall Street Journal and by Pew, reporting 37% and 33% approval respectively.


The CBS poll estimates that 47% of Americans think the eventual success in establishing democracy in Iraq is not at all or not very likely, an increase from 35% when polled on the same issue two months ago. The latest poll found that 15% answered that success is very likely, while 36% thought success is somewhat likely. Both these assessments have dropped from previous poll results of 21% and 42% respectively of those polled in January.

More than half believe that Iraq will never be a stable democracy, an increase from 39% who two months ago believed it could be stabilized. 5% believe Iraq will become a stable democracy in the next year or two.

64% of Americans believe the outcome in Iraq will not affect security in the United States, compared to 28% who believe a positive outcome will deter terrorism in the United States.

Poll results suggest that 71% of Americans believe that civil war is happening now in Iraq, and a majority say the war is not going well. 46% believe most Iraqi people now feel resentful of the U.S., up from 26% in April 2003, although this is a slight decrease from 48% in April 2004. In contrast, 32% say most Iraqis feel grateful, down from 53% in April 2003, and 13% say most Iraqis feel both grateful and resentful.

When asked who is winning the war, 29% said the U.S., 12% said the Iraqi resistance and insurgents, and 53% said neither side.

On progress by the U.S. to train Iraqi troops to manage the conflict, the poll measured a decline from 54% in January to 41% now, although those who felt they didn't know enough to say increased from 26% to 35%.

According to the poll, 50% of Americans do not believe the U.S. government is providing U.S. troops in Iraq enough resources to succeed, compared to 37% who do. However, 76% oppose reinstating the draft to provide additional soldiers for Iraq. According to the CBS report, 59% of Americans believe that the troop numbers should be decreased or that they should be removed entirely. However, 63% believe the troops will remain in Iraq for two or more years. The poll found that 44% of people believe that if the troops were withdrawn, violence in Iraq would increase, while 42% thought the violence would not change. Only 11% of people felt it would lead to less violence.

According to the poll results, the majority of Americans, 54%, believe the U.S. should have stayed out of the war, and 70% believe the war is not worth the costs. A more narrow majority of 51% thought removing Saddam Hussein was not worth going to war.

When asked why President Bush went to war, 21% said it was to protect the United States, 19% said to protect U.S. oil interests and 11% say to complete the Iraq war effort started by his father.

CBS report that 60% of Americans say the war has taken longer than expected, while only 4% say shorter. When asked whether the United States' military action in Iraq has made the U.S. safer from terrorism or not, 30% say it has made the U.S. more safe, 23% say it has made the U.S. less safe and 44% say it has made no difference.

In this poll, slightly more people say the war in Iraq is separate from the war on terrorism than say it is a major or a minor part of the war on terrorism. This is a reversal from the results in December 2005, when 43% of people said it was separate, while 53% said it was a major or minor part of the war on terror.

President Bush's Approval Ratings

The latest poll indicates that 57% of Americans now disapprove of President Bush's performance as president, an increase from 51% who disapproved of his performance two months ago, and a dramatic increase from disapproval ratings of 21% in April 2003. His job approval is now at 34%, down from 42% two months ago. In April 2003, just after the start of the war in Iraq, President Bush had a job approval rating of 73%. When broken down by party affiliation, CBS reports that his approval rating is now 74% among Republicans, 6% among Democrats and 28% among Independents.

The poll also found that more people disapprove than approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The approval rating for the President's handling of the war in Iraq is 31% and for foreign policy in general is 30%. Foreign-policy approval ratings vary by party affiliation, with 64% of Republicans approving, compared to 6% of Democrats and 24% of Independents. Similarly, 73% Republicans approve of the President's handling of the economy, compared to 9% of Democrats and 28% of Independents.

The poll indicates that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe President Bush says things are better in Iraq than they actually are, up to 66% from 58% in January, and less than one-fourth believe that President Bush describes things accurately. In comparison, 24% feel the media portray the situation in Iraq as better than it is. By contrast, 35% say the media description is accurate.

CBS report that the war in Iraq is still seen as the nation's most significant problem. 41% of Americans see the Democratic Party as more likely to make the right decisions regarding Iraq, while 35% see the Republican Party as more likely. The poll results also indicated that a similar number of people approve and disapprove of the President's efforts against terrorism. In contrast, more people approved than disapproved of these efforts back in January, when 52% approved and 43% disapproved.

Based on the latest CBS poll, nearly two thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, as opposed to a little over a quarter who believe the United States is on the right track. When divided by party affiliation, perception of being on the right track varies from 62% by Republicans to 20% by Independents to 8% by Democrats. When asked about companies from foreign countries operating U.S. ports, 42% say it is never okay, 17% said it is okay if the country was an ally, and 36% said it depends on the country.