Low Poll Numbers For Bush

George W. Bush, over U.S. Presidential seal, partial graphic 2005/4/28 AP / CBS

President George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has hovered just below 50 percent since the beginning of the year, and now most Americans think he is out of touch with their priorities.

The public continues to have doubts about Bush's key foreign and domestic initiatives: as they have been for months, Americans are divided on whether Social Security investment accounts are a good idea and whether going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do.

While much recent news has been focused on President Bush's judicial nominees and the filibuster in the Senate, Americans see the country's most important priorities as the economy and jobs and the war in Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT
Six in 10 Americans don't think the President shares their priorities for the country; just 34 percent say he does. These are the lowest marks Bush has received on this question since the eve of his first inauguration, when CBS News started asking it. An even larger majority -- 68 percent -- says Congress does not share their priorities.

DOES BUSH SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?

Yes
Now
34%
10/2004*
49%
9/2003
41%
1/2001
44%

No
Now
61%
10/2004*
48%
9/2003
56%
1/2001
46%

*asked of registered voters

DOES CONGRESS SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?
(May 20-23, 2005)

Yes 20%
No 68%

The President fares slightly better in the public's overall evaluation of him, though Americans continue to be divided. 46percent now approve of the job Bush is doing as president, while 48 percent disapprove. Last month, 44 percent approved, while 51% disapproved.

BUSH'S OVERALL JOB RATING

Approve
Now
46%
4/2005
44%

Disapprove
Now
48%
4/2005
51%

The public's opinions of Bush's overall job performance are tied to views on whether or not he shares their priorities for the country. Nine in 10 of those who say Bush shares their priorities approve of the job he is doing as President. Among those who say Bush does not share their priorities, 73 percent disapprove of his job performance.

While the President has been campaigning hard for Social Security reform and has recently reiterated his opposition to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the public instead cites the war in Iraq and the economy and jobs as the country's most pressing problems.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM
(May 20-23, 2005)

War in Iraq 19%
Economy/jobs 19%
Terrorism 7%
Social Security 5%

The President has made small gains when it comes to the economy, but few when it comes to Iraq and foreign policy.

Bush's approval rating on the war in Iraq is virtually the same as it was last month -- 38 percent approve. Following the President's visit to Russia and former Soviet Republics, just 40 percent of Americans approve of his handling of foreign policy. The campaign against terrorism remains Bush's strongest area: 58 percent approve of his handling of it.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVALS

Bush's approval rating on the economy remains low, though it is a bit higher now than it was last month. 38 percent approve, compared to 34 percent who approved last month. A slim majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- think the economy is in good shape, but 47 percent think it is not. These views are slightly less positive than they were in February when CBS News last asked about the state of the economy.

Overall
Now
46%
4/2005
44%

Campaign against terrorism
Now
58%
4/2005
53%

Foreign Policy
Now
40%
4/2005
--
2/2005
44%

War in Iraq
Now
38%
4/2005
39%

The economy
Now
38%
4/2005
34%

Bush's approval rating on the economy remains low, though it is a bit higher now than it was last month. 38 percent approve, compared to 34percent who approved last month. A slim majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- think the economy is in good shape, but 47 percent think it is not. These views are slightly less positive than they were in February when CBS News last asked about the state of the economy.

CONDITION OF NATION'S ECONOMY

Good
Now
52%
2/2005
57%

Bad
Now
47%
2/2005
42%

The public's outlook for the economy is not optimistic. 33 percent of Americans say the economy is getting worse, while only 17 percent say the economy is getting better. Another 48 percent say the economy is staying the same.

THE U.S. ECONOMY IS …

Getting better 17%
Getting worse 33%
Staying the same 48%

Republicans are more positive about the future of the nation's economy than Democrats. 32 percent of Republicans say the economy is getting better, 49 percent of Democrats say it is getting worse.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Despite his months-long campaign for Social Security reform, President Bush receives only a 26 percent approval rating for his handling of Social Security, and Americans continue to express doubts about his agenda to partially privatize the Social Security program.

62 percent of Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of Social Security; just over a quarter approve. In March, a New York Times Poll found the public disapproved of Bush's handling of Social Security by 57 percent to 30 percent.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF SOCIAL SECURITY

Approve
Now
26%
3/2005 (New York Times)
30%

Disapprove
Now
62%
3/2005 (New York Times)
57%

Disapproval of Bush's handling of Social Security is shared by majorities of Americans in all age groups. But there are party and philosophical differences. Half of Republicans approve of the President's handling of Social Security (three in ten disapprove), but Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly disapprove.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF SOCIAL SECURITY

All
Approve
26%
Disapprove
62%

Age 18-29
Approve
32%
Disapprove
55%

Age 30-44
Approve
28%
Disapprove
58%

Age 45-64
Approve
25%
Disapprove
67%

Age 65 and older
Approve
18%
Disapprove
68%

Republicans
Approve
50%
Disapprove
32%

Democrats
Approve
8%
Disapprove
86%

Independents
Approve
24%
Disapprove
64%

Liberals
Approve
15%
Disapprove
71%

Moderates
Approve
21%
Disapprove
67%

Conservatives
Approve
41%
Disapprove
49%

Americans continue to be uneasy with the President's plan to add individual investment accounts to Social Security. It has not gained in public support, despite months of active campaigning. The public is evenly divided over the President's proposal: 47 percent say allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes themselves is a good idea, but another 47 percent say it is a bad idea.

ALLOWING PEOPLE TO INVEST THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY TAXES IS:

Good idea
Now
47%
4/2005
45%
1/2005
45%

Bad idea
Now
47%
4/2005
49%
1/2005
50%

Young people under age 30 -- presumably those with the longest time horizon to retirement -- are the most supportive of President Bush's plan to allow individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes on their own: two-thirds say it's a good idea.

Support for individual Social Security accounts drops lower when people are asked to consider a possible reduction by as much as a third of the guaranteed benefit, one potential trade-off of President Bush's proposal. Just one in five think individual Social Security accounts would be a good idea in that scenario, and seven in ten say it would be a bad idea.

ALLOWING PEOPLE TO INVEST SOCIAL SECURITY TAXES – IF GUARANTEED BENEFITS ARE CUT:

Good idea
Now
21%
2/2005
22%
1/2005
22%

Bad idea
Now
68%
2/2005
69%
1/2005
70%

More than one in four have now heard a lot about President Bush's proposal. Most of those who have heard a lot about the President's plan say allowing individual investments of Social Security taxes is a bad idea. Those who have heard some are more evenly divided, as are those who have not heard much.

HEARD ABOUT BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY PROPOSAL

A lot
Now 26%
2/2005 21%
1/2005 13%

Some
Now 45%
2/2005 47%
1/2005 34%

Not much
Now 21%
2/2005 20%
1/2005 32%

Nothing
Now 8%
2/2005 11%
1/2005 19%

THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM AND HOW TO FIX IT

Nearly six in ten Americans do not think Social Security will have enough money available to provide them with the benefits they expect for their retirement, continuing a two-decade trend of skepticism. Those under age 45 are especially pessimistic about the Social Security system: eight in ten of them do not expect that the benefits will be there when they retire.

WILL SOCIAL SECURITY PROVIDE YOU WITH RETIREMENT BENEFITS?

Yes
Now 31%
4/2005 36%
1/2002 34%
3/1995 35%
6/1981 30%

No
Now 55%
4/2005 51%
1/2002 46%
3/1995 53%
6/1981 54%

This poll tested some options for fixing Social Security. One option that has been discussed is raising the current $90,000 limit on income subject to Social Security tax withholding. This idea is supported by 62 percent of the public.

A plan to limit the rate of growth of future Social Security benefits for middle- and upper-income workers, mentioned by President Bush a few weeks ago, receives mixed reviews. Half would support such a measure if the rate of growth of future benefits were limited for people with incomes of $100,000 or higher. Only 35 percent would back the idea if the growth rate in benefits were reduced for those making between $50,000 and $100,000.

OPTIONS FOR CHANGING SOCIAL SECURITY

Raising $90,000 income limit
Favor
62%
Oppose
31%

Limiting benefits if incomes are $100K or more
Favor
50%
Oppose
40%

Limiting benefits if incomes are $50-100K
Favor
35%
Oppose
55%

THE GOVERNMENT'S ROLE

As a general matter, eight in ten Americans think the government has a responsibility to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly in this country. Only 15 percent say it is not the government's job to do this. These views are unchanged from February.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT PROVIDE A DECENT STANDARD OF LIVING FOR THE ELDERLY?

Yes
Now 81%
2/2005 79%

No
Now 15%
2/2005 17%

But Americans divide on the philosophy on which the Social Security system should base its benefits. 43 percent think the program should take some of the contributions made by higher income people and use them to help pay benefits for poorer people this way-- similar to the current approach. But 46 percent think Social Security should pay out benefits based solely on the contributions made by retires while they were working.

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS SHOULD…

Be based only on contributions of retirees
Now 446%
2/2005 47%
6/1981 47%

Take some contributions of better-off people and give them to poorer people
Now 43%
2/2005 43%
6/1981 37%

55 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of conservatives think Social Security payouts should be based only on the contributions of retirees, while 54 percent of Democrats think the system should take some contributions from better-off people to help out those who are poorer. Liberals and moderates are more evenly divided.

Responses are also based on economic self-interest. Americans in higher income categories are more likely than those earning less to say Social Security payments should be based solely on the contributions of retirees.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

As violence in Iraq continues to take a toll on that country, a majority of Americans once again say things in Iraq are going badly for the U.S. there. 57 percent say things are going badly, while 41 percent say things are going well. In February, just weeks after the Iraqi elections, a majority of Americans said U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq were going well for the U.S.

HOW ARE THINGS IN IRAQ GOING FOR U.S.?

Well
Now 41%
4/2005 48%
2/2005 53%

Badly
Now 57%
4/2005 50%
2/2005 47%

The public continues to divide on whether the U.S. did the right thing taking military action against Iraq in the first place. 47 percent say it did, while 49 percent say the U.S. should have stayed out. For much of the past year, opinion has been split, just as it is now.

RIGHT THING TO TAKE MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ?

Right thing
Now
47%
4/2005
47%

Should have stayed out
Now
49%
4/2005
48%

THE NATION'S DIRECTION


With concerns about the economy and Social Security, and the ongoing instability in Iraq, Americans remain pessimistic about the overall direction of the country. 60 percent say things in the U.S. have seriously gotten off on the wrong track; only one third say things are headed in the right direction. Last month, 62 percent said the country was off on the wrong track.

DIRECTION OF COUNTRY

Right direction
Now
34%
4/2005
32%
5/2004
30%
3/2003
53%

Wrong track
Now
60%
4/2005
62%
5/2004
65%
3/2003
41%

These sentiments are similar to what they were a year ago when violence in Iraq escalated -- including the beheading of an American contractor. Photographs of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib also came to light last spring. The percentage who said the country was on the wrong track was also at a similarly high level back in November 1994, when Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.

The last time a majority of Americans said the country was heading in the right direction was back in March 2003, at the start of the war in Iraq.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1150 adults, interviewed by telephone May 20-24, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups is higher.


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


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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