ORLANDO, Fla. - Public opposition to the war in Iraq is at an all-time high - and support for President Bush's handling of the broader war against terrorism is at an all-time low - after the deadliest month for U.S. troops and revelations about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American forces.
The Gallup Poll of 1,000 adults nationwide released yesterday revealed across-the-board problems for the president, with his approval slipping on concerns ranging from homeland security to foreign policy to the economy.
Those findings, combined with a sharply growing discontent for the way things are going in the country in general, are translating to an even tougher re-election contest on Nov. 2. The survey - conducted Sunday through Tuesday - showed 49 percent of likely voters favoring Democrat John Kerry, 48 percent favoring Bush.
This is a tighter race than the 6 percentage-point advantage Gallup found for Bush less than a month ago. Just as revealing: A closer look at 16 battleground states shows Kerry favored among 48 percent, Bush among 44 - again, a statistical tie.
The unrelenting run of bad news in Iraq is polarizing the nation, experts say, and appears to have peeled away the support of some voters who had been willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt.
But it's not only the war against terrorism - the mainstay of Bush's re-election campaign - that is troubling voters, Gallup found: Support for Bush's handling of the economy slumped to an all-time low.
"It's surprising to some observers," said Frank Newport, The Gallup Poll's editor in chief, "because the economy is doing better. But for whatever reason, the public has actually turned more dour on Bush on the economy."
Although half of those surveyed still say Bush made the right call in going to war with Iraq, 55 percent now disapprove of how Bush is handing the situation - a sharp contrast to January, when 61 percent approved of Bush's actions in Iraq. That plunge, Newport said, could have as much to do with at least 136 U.S. troops killed in Iraq last month as with recent revelations of prison abuse.
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.