Bush's popularity in state reaches new low

Approval of president sinks to 33%

even most Republicans now oppose his Iraq policy

The Sun Poll

November 07, 2005|By TOM PELTON | TOM PELTON,SUN REPORTER

President Bush's approval rating in Maryland has sunk lower than that of any national leader in almost three decades, and a majority of state Republicans now believes that the United States should pull out of Iraq, according to a new Sun Poll.

The president's job satisfaction rating among Maryland voters - which fell from 83 percent in January 2002 to 33 percent this month - follows continued carnage in Iraq, the indictment of a top White House aide, and an apology by the president for a slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Even attitudes among Maryland Republicans are shifting. For the first time since the invasion of Iraq, more than half - 51 percent - support withdrawing troops from Iraq, according to the telephone poll of 1,008 likely Maryland voters conducted Oct. 27 through Tuesday for The Sun by Potomac Inc. The survey has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Keith Haller, president of the Bethesda polling company, said it was "startling" to see such a change among Republicans. As recently as January, a poll by Potomac for The Sun found 70 percent of Maryland Republicans said the invasion of Iraq was worth it, suggesting solid support for Bush's position that the United States should stay the course, Haller said.

In this latest poll, 44 percent of Republicans say that the United States should begin pulling out gradually, and 7 percent of Republicans say American forces should be removed immediately. Among Maryland voters of all political parties, 69 percent favor pulling out of Iraq, with 51 percent saying it should be done slowly and 18 percent saying it should be done immediately.

"George Bush's approval rating is as low as any president we've monitored or rated in almost 30 years. We've never seen it this low," Haller said. "Even Republicans believe that we need to start pulling out the troops, instead of staying to finish the job as the president has argued."

Among the Republicans favoring a pullout is Nancy Degalleford, a 70-year-old retired office worker from Baltimore County, who voted for Bush twice.

She said she supported the invasion of Iraq in part because she believed that Saddam Hussein was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (This opinion was not shared by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, which concluded there is no evidence that Hussein helped organize the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.)

"The president got rid of what's-his-name, the one that was running Iraq, and that should have been done a long time ago," Degalleford said of Hussein. "But now I think a slow pullout would be the thing to do. I think it's gone on long enough. We've made some progress, and it's time for the troops to come home."

Ralph Noack, a 49-year-old engineer who lives in Bel Air, is another Republican who favors a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. He says the goal of converting the Middle East to democracy through an invasion turned out to be unrealistic.

"I don't think we can ever achieve the goal that Bush wanted," Noack said. "I think it's fundamentally impossible with the culture there, ... the various groups, to impose our democracy upon them. They've had thousands of years of infighting among themselves."

Approval for Bush's job performance slipped among Maryland Republicans, who gave him an 86 percent positive rating in January and a 70 percent positive rating in this latest poll. For Maryland Democrats, 28 percent approved of the president's performance in January, compared with 14 percent this fall.

The largest shift was among independent voters. They were nearly split on Bush's performance in January, with 49 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. The most recent poll showed a 40 percentage point gap, with 64 percent of independents disapproving of his performance and 24 percent approving.

George Lukacsina, a 58-year-old disabled warehouse worker from Denton on the Eastern Shore, is one of the independents whose opinion of the president has become more negative.

"When 9/11 happened, he rallied the United States, all of the people together, and that was great," Lukacsina said. "But since that time, he's done a lousy job. The invasion of Iraq was unnecessary. I can't understand why we became a dictator and declared war on a people who are suffering just as badly as our people are suffering."

Glenna Routhier, a 54-year-old electrical designer and political independent from Montgomery County, was disturbed because missiles have been fired at her nephew, a Green Beret who has served in Iraq twice.

"I think we should bring our guys back from Iraq, and send Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld over there instead," Routhier said. "We have no business being over there. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? ... It's like the Vietnam War, ugly all around."

Charles Troyer, a 62-year-old retired police officer and Republican from Anne Arundel County, said he still strongly supports the president and thinks American soldiers should remain in Iraq "until we get it done."

"The president is doing the best he can with the situation and the pressures from all sides," Troyer said. "One thing he does do is take the blame; if something goes wrong he says it's his fault. Like with the [hurricane] down in Louisiana and all, and FEMA being all screwed up. ... I think he should be left alone and left to do his job."

Jeanne Taylor, a 44-year-old mother and Democrat from Silver Spring, said her opinions of both Bush and the Iraq war have fallen over the last two years.

"When we were first going after Saddam Hussein, I was all for that," Taylor said. "But this is ridiculous; it's going on forever, and they don't want us there. ... We definitely need to pull out, because we're not helping the situation and our soldiers are getting killed."

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

For comprehensive coverage and previous stories, go to baltimoresun.com/maryland poll.

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