Bush Feels Heat On Economy, Iraq

The troubled American economy is beginning to cause trouble for President Bush. More than half the public thinks the U.S. is now in a recession, and many believe the president is not paying enough attention to it.

And while most Americans continue to approve of U.S. military action against Iraq to try to remove Saddam Hussein, most also want support from Congress and from U.S. allies before taking such action.

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating remains at about the same level it was two weeks ago - 66% now approve of the job he is doing as president. While seven in ten approve of the job he is doing handling the campaign against terrorism, just 45% approve of his handling of the economy.

BUSH APPROVAL RATINGS
Now
Overall 66%
Terrorism 72%
Economy 45%

July 2002
Overall 65%
Terrorism 70
Economy 44

Two weeks ago, the stock market was at its lowest point in nearly four years. Though it has recovered somewhat since then, there has been little impact on opinions of the president. Bush's overall approval is still well above what it was before the September 11 terrorist attacks, though evaluations of his handling of the economy has fallen back to about the same level as last August.

41% say the president is paying as much attention as he can to the U.S. economy during this time of war in Afghanistan, but 50% think he should be paying more attention. This represents a reversal in public evaluations since the beginning of 2002.

IS BUSH PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO THE U.S. ECONOMY?
Now
Paying much attention as he can 41%
Should be paying more attention 50

Jan. 2002
Paying much attention as he can 54%
Should be paying more attention 38

56% believe the U.S. is currently in recession - disagreeing with the opinions of the administration and many economists. Another 19% say it is near one. Last August, before the terrorist attacks, fewer - 44% -- said the U.S. was then in recession.


IS THE U.S. IN RECESSION?
Yes 56%
No, but near one 19
No 22

Other economic indicators are not good. More than a quarter of respondents say someone in their household has been out of work and looking for a job at some point in the last year. 40% are worried that someone in the household MIGHT be unemployed in the next year -- 13% say they are very worried about this.

ATTACKING IRAQ
The public supports military action against Saddam Hussein, as it has since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. However, most Americans would like to wait for Congressional and allied support before acting. And when it comes to the question of regime change in Iraq, fewer than half now believe ousting Saddam Hussein is worth the possible costs - including potential loss of American lives.

Two-thirds approve of taking military action - majorities of both Democrats and Republicans agree. But more than two-thirds say the President should have to get Congressional approval before acting, and that the U.S. needs to wait for its allies' support.

MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ
Approve 66%
Disapprove 26

SHOULD PRESIDENT GET CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL?
Yes 71%
No 27

DOES THREAT FROM IRAQ REQUIRE U.S. ACTION EVEN WITHOUT ALLIED SUPPORT?
Yes 24%
No 68

Both Republicans and Democrats would like to see Congressional approval and favor waiting for allied support before taking military action against Iraq.

There are partisan differences on a general question of whether removing Saddam Hussein from power is worth the potential loss of American life and other costs of attacking. Overall, 46% say it would be worth it, and 43% say it would not. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say it would be worth it, while 52% of Democrats say it would not.

IS REMOVING SADDAM HUSSEIN FROM POWER WORTH THE COST?
Yes 46%
No 43

There are also gender differences. Men, by 55% to 38%, say it would be worth the cost; women, by 47% to 38%, say it would not.

One possible reason for the division on this question is that Americans do take different positions on U.S. intervention based on how serious a threat they believe a country poses to the U.S. 57% say the U.S. has a right to weaken or overthrow governments that it believes pose a threat to the U.S. But 55% say the U.S. does NOT have the right to do this in countries that are unfriendly to America.

DOES U.S. HAVE RIGHT TO OVERTHROW GOVERNMENTS?
Unfriendly to U.S.
Yes 31%
No 55

Posing a threat to U.S.
Yes 57%
No 33

BUSH, THE ADMINISTRATION AND THE CORPORATE SCANDALS
Despite his low ratings on the economy, Bush is perceived as being more in touch with average Americans than members of his administration. Americans divide on whether George W. Bush is in touch with what average people think. 48% say he is in touch, while 46% say he is not. Bush does somewhat better on this measure than he did a year ago. In August 2001, more than half - 52%- said Bush was out of touch and 43% said he was in touch with average people.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, is perceived by the American public as being more out of touch. 59% say the administration is out of touch with what people think, while 36% say they are in touch.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
In Touch

 G. W. BushAdministration Members
In touch with average Americans

48%

36%


 G. W. BushAdministration Members
More interested in protecting ordinary Americans

43%

32%


 G. W. BushAdministration Members
More interested in protecting large corporations

44%

58%


 G. W. BushAdministration Members
Trust to do the right thing in business

61%

52%

CBSNEWS Polls


The Bush administration is especially likely to be seen as protecting the interests of large corporations rather than those of ordinary Americans. Opinions about the president are divided, as they were two weeks ago. Now, 44% say Bush is more interested in protecting large corporations and 43% now say he is more interested in protecting ordinary Americans.

By 58% to 32%, Americans continue to think that members of the Bush administration are more interested in protecting the interests of large corporations.

Still, Americans trust both George W. Bush and his administration to do the right thing when it comes to regulating business to prevent accounting abuses. Six in 10 trust the president to do what is right and 52% trust his administration.

Even though Americans trust Bush to do what is right when it comes to regulating business, many do not believe his proposals go far enough in reforming corporate accounting practices. 39% say his proposals don't go far enough, 40% say they are about right and just 5% think they go too far.

BUSH'S PROPOSALS FOR REFORMING CORPORATE ACCOUNTING
Go too far 5%
Not far enough 39
About right 40

The corporate scandals and economic conditions have done minimal damage to public opinion of the vice president. 56% approve of the job Dick Cheney is doing as vice president, virtually unchanged from January. But the number who disapprove of the job he is doing has increased from 15% to 25%. However, back in January, 30% of the public did not have an opinion on Cheney's job performance, while just 19% do not have an opinion now.

CHENEY JOB APPROVAL
Now
Approve 56%
Disapprove 25
No Opinion 19

Jan. 2002
Approve 55%
Disapprove 15
No Opinion 30

THE MIDDLE EAST AND AMERICA'S ROLE
As violence in the Middle East escalates, the American public continues to side with the Israelis in the ongoing conflict. Sympathy for the Palestinians has declined since the Spring. In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 47% of Americans now sympathize with Israel while just 12% sympathize with the Palestinians.

WHO DO YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH MORE?
Now
Israel 47%
Palestinians 12
Neither 15

May 2002
Israel 47%
Palestinians 17
Neither 14

Americans continue to be divided on the appropriate role for the U.S. in the Middle East. 47% think the U.S. has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but almost as many, 46%, think that it is not this country's business.

DOES U.S. HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TRY TO RESOLVE THE CONFLICT?
Now
Yes 47%
No 46

July 2002
Yes 46%
No 46

There is evidence of continuing American frustration with the events taking place in the region. 45% think establishing peace in the Middle East is something the U.S. can do something about, but slightly more, 49%, think the U.S. cannot do anything about peace there.

CAN U.S. DO ANYTHING ABOUT PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST?
Now
Yes 45%
No 49

July 2002
Yes 43%
No 49

THE ECONOMY AND THE STOCK MARKET
Most Americans now worry about not having enough savings for retirement, and the percentage of people who say they are very worried has nearly doubled since the beginning of this year.

51% now say the economy is in bad shape - not much changed from two weeks ago.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
CONDITION OF THE ECONOMY

 Now7/237/167/9
Good

47%

45%

49%

56%


 Now7/237/167/9
Bad

51%

53%

49%

43%

CBSNEWS Polls


Assessments of the stock market are slightly better than they were two weeks, with 68% now saying the condition of the stock market is bad - down from 76%.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
CONDITION OF THE STOCK MARKET

 Now7/237/167/9
Good

22%

17%

33%

47%


 Now7/237/167/9
Bad

68%

76%

58%

45%

CBSNEWS Polls


49% think the stock market will go up in the next three months, unchanged from two weeks ago. Investors are more likely than non-investors to say the stock market will rise in the next three months, 56% to 43%.

Outlook for the stock market is more optimistic than for the national economy overall. Just 17% say the economy is getting better.

But many Americans worry about their financial future. Three in four working Americans now worry about not having enough savings for retirement, including 34% of Americans who say they are very worried - almost doubling the 18% who said so in January. Another 40% are somewhat worried about not having enough money for retirement, while only 26% are not worried.

WORRIED ABOUT NOT HAVING ENOUGH SAVINGS FOR RETIREMENT
Now
Very worried 34%
Somewhat worried 40
Not worried 26

Jan. 2002
Very worried 18%
Somewhat worried 42
Not worried 39

Women are especially worried about not having enough retirement savings, with 40% saying they are very worried, compared with 28% of men who say so.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 832 adults, interviewed by telephone August 6-7, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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