CBS Poll: Rice Can't Sway Skeptics

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National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's public testimony at the Sept. 11 Commission hearings may have improved her own image with the public, but most Americans still believe that the Bush administration could have done more to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, was not paying enough attention to the issue before Sept. 11 and is still hiding something about what they knew.

In addition, support for the war in Iraq continues to decline.

CBS News re-interviewed 471 adults nationwide Thursday night after Dr. Rice's testimony. These respondents were first interviewed as part of a national poll conducted March 30-April 1, one week ago, so we can look at true changes in individual opinions over the last week.

THE HEARINGS

Fifty-six percent of Americans said they saw or heard part of the Sept. 11 hearings on Thursday. They tended to be older and more educated than the public overall, but there was no significant difference by partisanship. About six in ten Democrats and six in ten Republicans said they watched.

By more than two to one, viewers and non-viewers alike say those hearings have been mostly fair and impartial. Non-viewers are less likely to express an opinion than viewers.

HAVE 9/11 HEARINGS BEEN FAIR AND IMPARTIAL?

Yes
All
53%
Viewers
61%
Non-Viewers
42%

No
All
22%
Viewers
26%
Non-Viewers
15%

Not Sure
All
25%
Viewers
13%
Non-Viewers
43%

There is some partisan difference -- Republicans are less likely than Democrats to think the hearings have been fair and impartial. Democrats say they have been, by a margin of 62 percent to 17 percent. Republicans agree, but by a much smaller margin of 46 percent to 30 percent.

Those who watched Condoleezza Rice's testimony were clearly impressed by her. In March, a Gallup Poll found that 50 percent of Americans had a favorable view of her, while 25 percent were unfavorable. Last night's interviewing showed improvement, with 56 percent favorable and 17 percent unfavorable about her. Viewers of the hearings were even more positive.

OPINIONS OF CONDOLEEZZA RICE

Now
All
Favorable
56%
Unfavorable
17%

Viewers
Favorable
64%
Unfavorable
23%

March (Gallop Poll)
Favorable
50%
Unfavorable
25%

One opinion left unchanged by Dr. Rice's testimony is the continuing belief that the Administration is not telling the entire truth about what it knew before Sept. 11. Three out of four Americans, about the same as a week ago, say the Administration is hiding something, with one in ten going so far as to say it is lying.

WHAT THEY KNEW BEFORE 9/11: IS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION…?

Telling entire truth
Now
21%
Last week
24%

Telling mostly truth, but hiding something
Now
66%
Last week
58%

Mostly lying
Now
10%
Last week
14%

THE ADMINSTRATION'S EFFORTS AGAINST TERRORISM
Despite the positive evaluations of Dr. Rice, there is only limited evidence in the poll that her testimony changed minds. Americans are more likely now to say that the Bush administration did all it could to prevent the 9/11 attacks than they were one week ago, but 60 percent of Americans still say they could have done more.

DID BUSH ADMINISTRATION DO ALL IT COULD TO PREVENT 9/11?

Yes
Now
32%
Last week
22%

No
Now
60%
Last week
69%

Forty-nine percent of respondents believed the government had information that could have prevented the terror attacks. Most of those say that if attention had been paid to that information, the attacks could have been prevented. Those figures have changed little since last December.

As for the Bush Administration's attention level, nearly seven in ten Americans still say it wasn't paying enough attention to terrorism before 9/11. There has been only limited improvement on this question in the last week.

WAS BUSH ADMINISTRATION PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO TERRORISM BEFORE 9/11?

Yes
Now
25%
Last week
18%

No
Now
68%
Last week
71%

Half the public, unchanged from last week, says the Administration's policies have made the United States safer from terrorism. However, 55 percent expect there to be another terrorist attack in the United States in the next few months. The good news is that figure is somewhat lower than last summer, and much lower than public assessment in the years after the 2001 attacks.

LIKELIHOOD OF ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK IN NEXT FEW MONTHS?

Very likely
Now
12%
8/2003
15%
9/2002
23%

Somewhat likely
Now
43%
8/2003
49%
9/2002
46%

Not very likely
Now
35%
8/2003
25%
9/2002
26%

Not at all likely
Now
6%
8/2003
8%
9/2002
5%

Looking ahead, the public has some confidence in the government's ability to protect its citizens from future attacks -- while less than one in five have a great deal of confidence, three in four American have at least some confidence in that. Those figures are similar to what was found in the first year after the attack, and a clear improvement from September 2002.

THE TOLL IN IRAQ
The Commission hearings haven't been the only major events of the last week -- and the U.S. and coalition casualties in Iraq continue to take a toll on American opinions about the Bush administration policies there.

Just over a third now say the result of the war in Iraq is worth the costs, dropping from 39 percent among these same respondents one week ago. 57 percent, the largest number ever in CBS News Polls, say it is not.

WAS WAR IN IRAQ WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes
Now
34%
Last week
39%

No
Now
57%
Last week
53%

In addition, fewer also think the U.S. made the right decision to use military force against Iraq last year -- down to 50 percent from 55 percent among these same respondents last week, also the lowest percentage in CBS News polls since the end of the war. Forty-six percent now say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.

DID THE U.S. DO RIGHT THING TAKING MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ?

Yes
Now
50%
Last week
55%

No
Now
46%
Last week
39%

There has been an enormous change in the last few months in the U.S. public's evaluations of how things are going in Iraq -- last December, two-thirds said things were going well for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq. That figure is now only 39 percent. Nearly six in ten say things are going badly for the U.S., with 26 percent describing things as going VERY badly. As in the previous questions, these results are the worst seen in this poll since the end of the war.

U.S. EFFORS TO BRING ORDER AND STABILITY TO IRAQ ARE GOING…

Very well
Now
4%
12/2003
8%

Somewhat well
Now
35%
12/2003
57%

Somewhat badly
Now
33%
12/2003
24%

Very badly
Now
26%
12/2003
9%

There is one ray of hope for the public when it comes to Iraq -- 58 percent think that eventually the U.S. is likely to succeed in establishing a democratic government in Iraq. But 40 percent think the U.S. is not likely to do that.

LIKELY U.S. WILL SUCCEED IN ESTABLISHING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ

Very likely
14%
Somewhat likely
44%
Not very likely
27%
Not at all likely
13%

EVALUATING THE PRESIDENT
In the last week, assessments of the President's handling of Iraq and the war on terrorism, as well as his overall approval rating, have remained relatively stable, with changes of only a point or two (sometimes in both directions). Last week, 49 percent of these respondents approved of the way George W. Bush was handling his job, this week that figure is 51 percent. Last Friday's economic news of more than 300,000 new jobs was yet another event between the two polls.

BUSH APPROVAL RATING

Approve
Now
51%
Last week
49%

Disapprove
Now
45%
Last week
46%

Opinion of the President's handling of Iraq is also unchanged among these respondents, but there continues to be trend downward in his approval rating on handling terrorism. Last week, 58 percent of these respondents approved (the lowest rating for the President on that measure up until then), now that figure is 56 percent.

BUSH HANDLING OF IRAQ

Approve
Now
46%
Last week
45%

Disapprove
Now
50%
Last week
50%


BUSH HANDLING OF TERRORISM

Approve
Now
56%
Last week
58%

Disapprove
Now
38%
Last week
36%


Non-watchers tended to be more positive about the President on all the approval questions.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 471 adults, interviewed by telephone April 8, 2004. These respondents were first interviewed March 30-31, 2004. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus five percentage points. The sampling error on changes in individual questions is much smaller.

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

  • John Esterbrook

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