Poll: Bush Ratings Hit New Low

President Bush, right, gestures at the United Nations World Summit, Sept. 14, 2005. CBS

This CBS News Poll finds an American public increasingly pessimistic about the economy, the war in Iraq, the overall direction of the country, and the president. Americans' outlook for the economy is the worst it has been in four years. Most expect the price of gas to rise even further in the next few months.

A growing number of Americans want U.S. troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible, rather than stay the course, and the highest percentage ever thinks the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. When given a set of options for paying for rebuilding the hurricane-racked Gulf Coast, only one — taking money from the Iraq War — gets majority support.

President Bush's overall job approval rating has reached the lowest ever measured in this poll, and evaluations of his handling of Iraq, the economy and even his signature issue, terrorism, are also at all-time lows. More Americans than at any time since he took office think he does not share their priorities.

The public's concerns affect their view of the state of the country. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say things in the United States are pretty seriously off on the wrong track — the highest number since CBS News started asking the question in 1983. Today, just 26 percent say things are going in the right direction.

DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY

Right direction
Now
26%
9/2005
31%
5/2004
30%
3/2003
52%
11/1994
30%

Wrong track
Now
69%
9/2005
63%
5/2004
65%
3/2003
41%
11/1994
65%

Majorities of the public have consistently said the U.S. is off on the wrong track since January 2004. In May 2004, shortly after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal came to light, 65 percent were negative. In November 1994, just as Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades, 6 percent of Americans said the country was off on the wrong track.

PRESIDENT BUSH

President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to his lowest rating ever. 37 percent now approve of the job he is doing as president, while 58 percent disapprove. Those in his own party are still overwhelmingly positive about his performance (nearly 80 percent approve), but the president receives little support from either Democrats or Independents. And while views of President Bush have lately not changed much among Republicans or Democrats, his approval rating among Independents has dropped 11 points since just last month, from 40 percent to 29 percent now.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL
Approve
All
37%
Reps.
79%
Dems.
14%
Inds.
29%

Disapprove
All
58%
Reps.
13%
Dems.
84%
Inds.
64%


President Bush also receives his lowest ratings ever on his handling of the economy and Iraq, with only a third approving of either. Here as well, there has been a drop in approval among Independents since last month in both of those areas, although his ratings among Independents were low last month as well.

PRES. BUSH JOB APPROVALS

Overall
Now
37%
9/2005
41%
8/2005
41%

Terrorism
Now
46%
9/2005
50%
8/2005
54%


Iraq
Now
32%
9/2005
36%
8/2005
38%

Economy
Now
32%
9/2005
35%
8/2005
37%

Hurricane Katrina
Now
45%
9/2005
44%
8/2005
54%

Recent hurricanes
Now
46%
9/2005
n/a
8/2005
n/a

And for the first time in this poll, fewer than half the public approves of the way he is handling the campaign against terrorism. 46 percent now approve, but 46 percent disapprove.

Approval of Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina is about the same as last month, and now stands at 45 percent. Overall evaluation of how he has managed all the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast is 46 percent.

Since earlier this year, the President has been viewed as out of touch with Americans. Only 32 percent now think he shares their priorities for the country, while twice as many think he does not. At earlier points in his presidency, more Americans felt he shared their goals.

DOES PRES. BUSH SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?

Yes
Now
32%
5/2005
34%
4/2003
48%
1/2002
59%

No
Now
65%
5/2005
61%
4/2003
46%
1/2002
32%

On this question too, the President maintains the support of Republicans (69 percent of them feel he shares their priorities), but finds little among either Democrats or Independents.

President Bush receives less credit for empathy than he has in previous polls. 52 percent of Americans think he cares about people like them at least somewhat, the lowest figure ever.

There are continued questions about his leadership abilities: 52 percent now say they have a lot or some confidence in the President's ability to handle a crisis, and 45 percent see him as a strong leader, down significantly from views at previous points in his presidency, and the lowest number ever in this poll.

DOES PRESIDENT BUSH HAVE STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP?

Yes
Now
45%
9/2005
53%
9/2004*
64%
9/2001
83%

No
Now
52%
9/2005
45%
9/2004*
34%
9/2001
14%

*among registered voters

A sizable number of Americans express skepticism about whether President Bush has chosen qualified people for positions in his administration. 52 percent have at least some confidence in his choices, but almost as many, 47 percent, have little or no confidence.

CONFIDENCE IN BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION APPOINTEES?

A lot
All
22%
Reps.
50%
Dems.
6%
Inds.
17%

Some
All
30%
Reps.
37%
Dems.
27%
Inds.
28%

A little/none
All
47%
Reps.
13%
Dems.
66%
Inds.
53%

Half of Republicans express a lot of confidence in President Bush's choices, while most Democrats and Independents have little or no confidence.

THE ECONOMY AND PERSONAL FINANCES

The public continues to hold negative views of the nation's economy; and the percentage saying the condition of the economy is good is the lowest since September 2003, more than two years ago. Now, 43 percent say the economy is in good shape, and 55 percent say it is fairly or very bad.

VIEWS OF THE ECONOMY

Good
Now
43%
9/2005
49%
10/2004
55%
9/2003
43%

Bad
Now
55%
9/2005
50%
10/2004
45%
9/2003
56%

In addition, the outlook for the economy is even more pessimistic than it was last month. More than half — 54 percent — think the economy is getting worse — the highest figure since September 2001, just after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Only one in ten says the economy is getting better.


ECONOMY IS GETTING:

Better
Now
10%
9/2005
13%
1/2005
25%
9/2001
8%

Worse
Now
54%
9/2005
47%
1/2005
29%
9/2001
55%

Same
Now
34%
9/2005
38%
1/2005
45%
9/2001
35%

Even Americans' evaluations of their own financial situation are not very positive. Few say they are better off than they were a year ago. One in three says their family's financial situation is worse today, and half say it is about the same. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say their financial situation is worse today than it was a year ago.

Looking ahead, the public is a little more hopeful as to what the future holds. 30 percent think their family's financial situation will be better a year from now, and 42 percent think it will not change much. 23 percent think their financial situation may be worse a year from now.

FAMILY'S FINANCIAL SITUATION


Compared to a year ago
Better
18%
Worse
32%
Same
50%

A year from now
Better
30%
Worse
23%
Same
42%

The economy remains one of the most important issues Americans want the government to address, outranked only by the war with Iraq. These two issues are followed by gas and oil prices, specific critical mentions of George W. Bush, and terrorism.

U.S. MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM

War in Iraq
Now
18%
9/2005
13%

Economy and jobs
Now
16%
9/2005
14%

Gas/oil crisis
Now
5%
9/2005
9%

President Bush
Now
5%
9/2005
5%

Terrorism
Now
4%
9/2005
6%

GAS AND OIL PRICES

Recently, President Bush asked Americans to conserve gasoline by driving less and car-pooling. Despite his announcement, the public is skeptical. 50 percent say President Bush thinks the government's priority is not encouraging conservation but increasing the production of petroleum, coal and natural gas. 36 percent think his view of the government's priority is encouraging conservation.

GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES FOR ENERGY

Increase production
Bush's view
50%
Your view
37%

Encourage conservation
Bush's view
36%
Your view
49%

Americans' own views on this issue are slightly different. 49 percent think the priority for the government should be to encourage people to conserve energy, while 37 percent think the priority should be to increase the production of petroleum, coal and natural gas.

In fact, 64 percent of Americans say they have cut down on the amount of driving they do because of the price of gasoline.

Most Americans don't see any relief in sight when it comes to high gas prices. 61 percent expect the price of gas will go up over the next few months.

IN NEXT FEW MONTHS, EXPECT PRICE OF GAS TO:
Go up 61%
Stay the same 21%
Go down 15%

American oil companies get the most blame for rising gas and oil prices, with 44 percent placing a lot of blame on them. Another 35 percent say oil companies share some of the blame.

But many also blame the Iraq war and the hurricanes that recently hit the Gulf Coast region. A quarter places a lot of blame on the war in Iraq, and an additional four in 10 blame the war some. 27 percent place a lot of blame on the recent hurricanes, and another 50% say the hurricanes share some of the blame.

BLAME FOR RISING GAS AND OIL PRICES?

American oil companies
A lot
44%
Some
35%
Not much/none
19%

War in Iraq
A lot
24%
Some
41%
Not much/none
33%

Hurricanes
A lot
27%
Some
50%
Not much/none
20%

HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA

In addition to perceptions of a worsening economy and higher gas prices, Americans now face the costs of paying for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. When given several possibilities for that, a majority accepts only one option — reducing spending on the war in Iraq. Other proposals, some even now being seriously discussed in Congress, get much less support.

62 percent of Americans say that reducing spending on the war in Iraq would be an acceptable way of paying for recovery and rebuilding on the Gulf Coast. Fewer than half would accept cutbacks in the highway program, and only a third would be willing to increase the federal budget deficit or raise taxes. Even fewer would favor postponing the new Medicare prescription benefits.


ACCEPTABLE WAYS OF PAYING FOR HURRICANE REBUILDING
Cut spending in Iraq 62%
Reduce highway spending 46%
Increase budget deficit 35%
Raise taxes 31%
Postpone Medicare drug benefits 28%

Three in four Democrats and 68 percent of Independents want to cut spending in Iraq, but only a third of Republicans do.

Last month, in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina,CBS News and The New York Times asked Americans a different question — whether or not they would personally be willing to pay more in taxes for hurricane relief. A majority then said they would.

The Gulf Coast hurricanes continue to take a toll on confidence in the government's ability to protect Americans from terrorism, although there has been some improvement since September. In August, 72 percent of Americans had confidence in the government's ability to protect the country from terrorism. That dropped to 59 percent in September, and stands at 63 percent today. 37 percent still have little or no confidence.

CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT'S ABILITY TO PROTECT FROM TERRORISM

Great deal
Now
16%
9/2005
19%
8/2005
18%

Fair amount
Now
47%
9/2005
40%
8/2005
54%


Not very much
Now
30%
9/2005
30%
8/2005
21%

None
Now
7%
9/2005
10%
8/2005
5%

Similar percentages express confidence (or lack of it) in the government's ability to deal with natural disasters.

Although it now seems that dealing with the recovery from Katrina and Rita may involve large government programs, there is little public enthusiasm for increased government activity. Just 38 percent now say that government should do more to solve national problems, little different from what has been the case for years.

Hurricane Katrina affected more Americans than just those in the hurricane zones. 27 percent say they personally have a close friend or relative affected by the storm. That figure is even higher in the South, where more than a third knows someone affected.

One thing that has changed is that Americans are more optimistic about the rebuilding of New Orleans than they were last month. One in four now expects that the city will be back as a working city in the next year or two, up from 17 percent last month.

IRAQ

More than half of Americans — 55 percent — think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (the highest figure to date), while 41 percent think taking military action there was the right thing to do, and a growing number of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. Now, 59 percent want U.S. troops to leave, up from 52 percent last month and 40 percent earlier this year. Only 36 percent think troops should stay as long in Iraq as long it takes for that country to become stable.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD…

Stay as long as it takes
Now
36%
9/2005
42%
2/2005
55%
6/2004
54%

Leave as soon as possible
Now
59%
9/2005
52%
2/2005
40%
6/2004
40%

CONGRESS AND TOM DELAY

31 percent of Americans now approve of the job Congress is doing, and 57 percent disapprove. Approval of Congress has never been high, but since March it has been especially low, at about a third. And while most Americans view neither the Democrats nor the Republicans positively, Democrats fare slightly better.

Republicans receive more criticism than Democrats when it comes to their ethics. Although a majority of Americans think members of both parties share the honesty and integrity of most people, 37 percent think the Republicans in Congress are less likely to have those qualities, compared to 28 percent who say that about the Democrats. Fewer than one in 10 Americans think members of Congress — of either party — have more honesty than Americans in general.

HONESTY AND INTEGRITY COMPARED TO MOST AMERICANS

Democrats
More
9%
Less
28%
Same
58%

Republicans
More
5%
Less
37%
Same
53%

Republicans may have been hurt by the recent indictments of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Still, most Americans don't have an opinion of DeLay. 7 percent are favorable, and 21 percent are unfavorable, about the same as opinions in May.

VIEWS OF TOM DELAY

Favorable
Now
7%
5/2005
6%

Not favorable
Now
21%
5/2005
18%

Undecided/Haven't heard enough
Now
71%
5/2005
75%

As for other Congressmen and women, 43 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democrats in Congress, and 46% have an unfavorable opinion of them. Views of the Republicans in Congress are a bit more negative; 37 percent have a favorable opinion, while more than half, 53 percent, have an unfavorable view.


VIEWS OF THE PARTIES IN CONGRESS

Favorable
Democrats
43%
Republicans
37%

Not favorable
Democrats
46%
Republicans
53%

Party loyalty plays a role: Democrats tend to see Democrats in Congress favorably, while Republicans see members from their party that way. Independents see both parties in a negative light, but more hold unfavorable views of Republicans than Democrats.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 808 adults, interviewed by telephone October 3-5, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points.

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

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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