Bush's approval ratings sink to new low for his presidency

May 10, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Sharp disapproval of President Bush's handling of gasoline prices has combined with intensified unhappiness about Iraq to create a grim political environment for the White House and congressional Republicans.

Bush's approval ratings for his management of foreign policy, Iraq and the economy have fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency. He drew poor marks on the issues that have been at the top of the national agenda in recent months, in particular immigration and gasoline prices.

Just 13 percent of the respondents approved of Bush's handling of rising gasoline prices. About a quarter said they approved of his handling of immigration, as congressional Republicans struggle to come up with a compromise for handling the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.

The poll showed a further decline in support for the war, the issue that has most eaten into Bush's public support. The percentage of respondents who said going to war in Iraq was the correct decision slipped to a new low of 39 percent, down from 47 percent in January. Two-thirds said they had little or no confidence that Bush could successfully end the war.

Bush's overall job approval rating hit another new low, 31 percent, tying the low point of his father, President George H.W. Bush, in July 1992, four months before the elder Bush lost his bid for a second term to Bill Clinton. That is the third-lowest approval rating of any president in 50 years; only Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter were viewed less favorably.

Bush is even losing support from what has been his base: 51 percent of conservatives and 69 percent of Republicans approve of the way Bush is handling his job. In both cases, those figures represent a substantial drop in support from four months ago.

Although the composition of congressional districts will make it hard for the Democrats to recapture control of Congress in the fall, the poll suggested that the trend was moving in their direction. Just 23 percent said they approved of the job Congress was doing, down from 29 percent in January. That is about the same level of support for Congress as in the fall of 1994, when Republicans seized control of the House.

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