Another one of President Bush's major initiatives is cutting taxes. So far, views on making the 2001 tax cuts permanent are mixed. 47 percent of Americans agree with the President that the tax cuts passed in 2001 should be made permanent, while 40 percent think those tax cuts should be allowed to expire this year. Support for making the 2001 tax cuts permanent has increased somewhat since last March, when the public opposed the idea by 44 percent to 39 percent.
THE 2001 TAX CUTS SHOULD BE…
Allowed to expire this year
Six in ten Republicans and nearly half of Independents are for making the 2001 tax cuts permanent, while most Democrats oppose it.
But when it comes to additional tax cuts, only one in four think they would help the economy. 46 percent of Americans don't think additional cuts now would make much difference to the economy.
ADDITIONAL TAX CUTS WOULD BE…
Good for the economy
Bad for the economy
The public has mixed views on replacing the current tax system with a flat tax that would tax people of all incomes at the same rate. 29 percent favor a flat tax system, but 33 percent oppose it, and even more, 36 percent, don't know enough about a flat tax system yet to offer an opinion.
FAVOR OR OPPOSE A FLAT TAX SYSTEM
Don't know enough
Those views have held steady for the past nine years, going back to 1996, when Steve Forbes proposed a flat tax system while running for the Republican nomination for president.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to favor a flat tax system (35 percent to 21 percent), but many in both parties don't know enough yet to have an opinion.
Most Americans believe rich people would benefit most from a flat tax.
WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM A FLAT TAX SYSTEM?
The rich 53%
The poor 6%
The middle class 25%
All equal 6%
Among those opposed to this tax system, eight in ten think the rich would be more likely to benefit from it.
Most Americans don't think income from investments and interest should be taxed at a lower rate than income from salaries and wages (as they are now); they think everything should be taxed at the same rate. Just 28 percent think investment income should be taxed at a lower rate, and 12 percent think the tax on investment income should be higher. People with investments generally agree.
TAX ON INVESTMENTS VS. TAX ON SALARIES
Should be more
Should be less
Should be same
THE BUSH LEGACY: THE WAR IN IRAQ
Americans name the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing the country today, just ahead of the economy and jobs. 21 percent cite the war, while 17 percent mention the economy.
MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM FACING THE U.S. TODAY
War in Iraq
With the election in Iraq less than two weeks away, Americans doubt that country is secure enough to have an election and many do not think holding an election will improve the violent situation there.
65 percent of Americans say Iraq is NOT secure enough for Iraqis to vote in their upcoming election; just 28 percent believe the country is secure enough. Two-thirds say Iraq lacks the security to conduct a fair election.
IS IRAQ SECURE ENOUGH FOR IRAQIS TO…
Vote in the upcoming election
Have a fair election
Eight in 10 Democrats do NOT think Iraq is secure enough for Iraqis to vote on January 30th, and Republicans are divided. 47 percent of Republicans think most of Iraq is secure enough for Iraqis to vote, while 46 percent think it is not.
Americans do not think the upcoming election will curb the violence in Iraq. In fact, four in 10 expect there to be more violence after the election, while just 15 percent think there will be less. Another 40 percent think the election will have no effect on the current violence in Iraq.
EFFECT OF ELECTION ON VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
Not much effect 40%
Still, Americans closely divide on whether or not those elections should be postponed. 49 percent think the Iraqi election should be held at the end of this month, while 44 percent think it should be postponed for several months. A majority of Democrats think the election should be postponed, but Republicans think it should not be.
SHOULD THE ELECTION IN IRAQ BE POSTPONED?
As for the election's outcome, two-thirds are willing to accept even an Islamic fundamentalist government that might not cooperate with the United States, if that's what the Iraqis choose. Just 20 percent say the U.S. should take steps to prevent such a government. In April 2003, about a month into the war with Iraq, more than twice as many Americans said the U.S. should take steps to prevent the election of an Islamic fundamentalist government.
IF IRAQIS CHOOSE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST GOVERNMENT THAT DOES NOT COOPERATE WITH U.S., U.S. SHOULD:
Accept the Iraqis' choice
Prevent that type of government
About half the public thinks U.S. troops should stay in Iraq until a stable democracy is created. But that may be more a hope than a reality. Americans are more dubious now than two months ago about the possibility of the U.S. creating a democracy in Iraq. 52 percent say it is NOT possible for the U.S. to create a stable democracy in Iraq, while four in 10 think it is possible. In November, opinions were split on this question.
POSSIBLE FOR U.S. TO CREATE STABLE DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ?
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Last week the U.S. decided to stop searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 56 percent of Americans think Iraq probably did have weapons of mass destruction the U.S. could not find. This is a drop from the 81 percent who believed there were WMDs shortly after the fall of Baghdad. Now, 39 percent say Iraq probably did not have any such weapons.
THINK IRAQ HAD WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Probably did not
A majority of the public, however, says that if the United States and its allies never find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war against Iraq would not have been worth it. 41 percent say the war was worth it even if weapons are not found.
WAS IRAQ WAR WORTH IT EVEN IF WEAPONS ARE NOT FOUND?
Not finding any weapons of mass destruction has taken a toll on views about the Bush administration's honesty before the war began. When asked if the administration was telling all that they knew about weapons, 37 percent think they were. But just as many -- 36 percent -- think the Bush administration was hiding important elements of what they knew, and another quarter of Americans believe they were mostly lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before taking military action.
BEFORE THE WAR, WHEN TALKING ABOUT WEAPONS IN IRAQ, BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS…
Telling all/most of what he knew
Hiding important elements
Mostly lying about weapons
THE OVERALL VIEW
Americans remain skeptical about whether they are getting a true picture of what's really going on in Iraq from President Bush. 55 percent say that he is making things in Iraq sound better than they are, while 35 percent think Bush is describing the situation in that country accurately. Before the presidential election, 50 percent of voters said Bush was making things sound better than they were in Iraq.
THINK BUSH IS MAKING THINGS IN IRAQ SOUND …
10/2004 (Voters) 50%
10/2004 (Voters) 5%
Describing accuratelyNow 35%
10/2004 (Voters) 42%
Moreover, 57 percent think things are going badly now for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq; 53 percent said so in November after the election.
In addition, three in four do not think Bush has a plan for bringing the troops home from Iraq, while less than one in five thinks he has one. In October, 65 percent of voters said Bush did not have a clear plan for getting American troops out of Iraq.
Overall views on the Iraq war continue to be somewhat pessimistic. Looking back, half of Americans say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq, while 45 percent say taking military action was the right thing to do -- matching the lowest number on that response to date.
RIGHT THING TO TAKE MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ?
Should have stayed out
Many Americans do not think the Iraq war has accomplished the objective of curbing the threat of terrorism against the U.S. 47 percent say the war has had no effect on the terror threat, and another third think the threat of terrorism has increased as a result of the Iraq war. Just 19 percent say the terror threat against the U.S. has decreased as a result of the war in Iraq.
THREAT OF TERRORISM AGAINST U.S. AS A RESULT OF IRAQ WAR
Stayed the same 47%
THE BUSH LEGACY: FIRST-TERM RATINGS
George W. Bush's overall job approval rating stands at 49 percent, lower than that of any U.S. President on the eve of a second term, going back as far as Eisenhower. 46 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of his job as president. More Americans disapprove than approve of Bush's handling of the economy, Iraq and foreign policy. The President's approval rating on his handling of terrorism remains his strongest rating, with a majority approving.
At 49 percent, Bush's overall approval rating is slightly lower than the 51 percent he received just after his reelection last November, but significantly higher than his lowest approval rating ever, 41 percent, which he received last May amid increasing concerns over continued violence in Iraq.
Bush received his highest approval rating, 90 percent, in October 2001, just weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks as the country rallied around its President and his response to the tragedy. His approval rating had declined to 59 percent by January 2003, but rebounded to 73 percent in April 2003 after the U.S. troops took control of Baghdad. For much of 2004, however, Bush's approval ratings in this poll have hovered at 50 percent or below. He received his 2004 high of 51 percent in March, April and November after his reelection.
APPROVAL RATINGS: BUSH'S FIRST TERM
About two in five Americans now approve of Bush's handling of foreign policy, the economy and Iraq. More than half disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy and the situation in Iraq, and just under half disapprove of his handling of foreign policy.
Bush's handling of terrorism remains his strongest point, as it was throughout the 2004 presidential campaign. 56 percent now approve of his handling of the campaign against terrorism, while 38 percent disapprove.
BUSH APPROVAL RATINGS
The public gives President Bush high marks for his handling of the U.S. response to the recent Asian tsunami. 81 percent approve of the President's handling of the U.S. response to the December 26 tsunami in South Asia, and about seven in ten think the timing of the U.S. response was just right, and neither too fast nor too slow.
On a personal level, 44 percent of Americans view Bush favorably, but nearly as many, 40%, view him unfavorably. These views are largely unchanged from last January. 16 percent still cannot form an opinion about Bush. Bush received the same favorable rating in January 2001, just before he took office, but his unfavorable rating then was 30 percent, and a quarter offered no opinion.
VIEWS OF GEORGE W. BUSH
Undecided/haven't heard enough
Most Americans don't think the Asian tsunami and the war in Iraq should affect the Presidential Inauguration, and think the events should go on as planned, but just under two in five say the events should be scaled back this year. Three quarters of Republicans think the events should go on as planned, while Democrats and Independents are more evenly divided.
INAUGURATION EVENTS SHOULD…
Be scaled back
Go on as planned
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1118 adults interviewed by telephone January 14-18, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults.
For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.