Poll: Bush's Next Four Years

GENERIC President Bush, Presidential Seal, over a U.S. Flag. AP / CBS

The majority of Americans feel optimistic about the next four years with George W. Bush as President, but they disagree on whether Bush's second term in office will bring Americans together or further divide them.

Most are confident that President Bush will make the right decisions to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks, and just over half think he will be able to end the war in Iraq successfully.

The public is less confident, however, about the President's approaches to the economy and international crises. And there continue to be concerns about his tax cut proposals.

AMERICAN OPTIMISTS
By 56 percent to 39 percent, Americans say they are optimistic about the next four years with President George W. Bush. This includes one in five of those who voted for John Kerry, one-third of liberals, and over half of moderates. In January 2001, at the start of George W. Bush's presidency, 64 percent were optimistic.

FEELING ABOUT THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

Optimistic
Now
56%
2001
64%

Pessimistic
Now
39%
2001
28%

However, there is disagreement as to whether President Bush will bring Americans together during the next four years, or further divide them. Somewhat more think the President's second term will divide Americans rather than unite them.

BUSH'S SECOND TERM WILL…

Bring Americans together
All
40%
Rep.
72%
Dem.
21%
Ind.
33%

Divide Americans
All
48%
Rep.
17%
Dem.
70%
Ind.
50%

Three quarters of Bush voters think the President will unite different groups of Americans, but over one in ten think Americans will become more divided over the next four years. Only 13 percent of those who voted for Kerry expect think Bush will bring Americans together in the next four years.

The public's outlook on this issue was only slightly better at the start of President Bush's first term: in January 2001, 43 percent thought Bush's presidency would bring Americans together, and 39 percent said he would divide them.

A POST-ELECTION HONEYMOON?
Some -- but not all of -- the President's approval ratings have taken a small bounce, but there are many other questions for which the election changed few minds.

54 percent of the public says the U.S. is on the wrong track; 40 percent thinks the country is headed in the right direction, not much changed from before the presidential election.

DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY

Right direction
Now
40%
Pre-Election
43%

Wrong track
Now
54%
Pre-Election
55%

Three quarters are confident that President Bush will make the right decisions to protect the U.S. from terrorism, including 42 percent who have a lot of confidence. Registered voters consistently expressed a similar level of confidence in Bush on this question throughout the 2004 campaign.

Just over half of Americans are confident that President Bush will be able to successfully end the war in Iraq, also similar to the pre-election level.

CONFIDENCE BUSH WILL...

Protect U.S. from terrorism
A lot
42%
Some
31%
Not much/none
25%

Successfully end Iraq war
A lot
22%
Some
29%
Not much/none
46%

But a slight majority feels uneasy about the President's ability to make the right decisions about the economy or in an international crisis.

EVALUATING BUSH'S ABILITY TO…

Make the right economic decisions
Have confidence
46%
Uneasy
52%

Deal wisely with international crisis
Have confidence
47%
Uneasy
51%

Just under half of Americans think there will be little change in the way other nations regard the United States by the end of Bush's second term. 19 percent think the U.S. will be more respected by other nations four years from now, but more -- 28 percent -- think Bush's second term will negatively affect America's stature in the world.

BY THE END OF BUSH'S SECOND TERM, THE U.S. WILL BE...

More respected by other nations
19%
Less respected
28%
About as respected
49%

BUSH'S APPROVAL RATINGS
There have been gains in some of the President's approval ratings since the election. 51 percent of Americans now approve of George W. Bush's handling of his job as President, the highest since April. Since late September, just under half of the public had approved of the job President Bush was doing.

Six in ten approve of the President's handling of terrorism, an area of consistent strong performance for Bush, up from 55 percent just before the presidential election.

However, just 40 percent now approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from 45 percent before the election early this month. 55 percent now disapprove. 44 percent approve of Bush's overall handling of foreign policy, unchanged from late October.

And despite recent good economic news, 42 percent now approve of the President's handling of the economy, unchanged from just before the election.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL

Overall
Now
51%
Pre-Election
49%

Terrorism
Now
59%
Pre-Election
55%

Foreign policy
Now
44%
Pre-Election
45%

Economy
Now
42%
Pre-Election
43%

Iraq
Now
40%
Pre-Election
45%

54 percent now think the economy is good; 52 percent thought so in October. But the public is mixed in its sense of future economic outlook: 44 percent think the economy will stay about the same, while the rest split evenly on whether it is getting better or getting worse.

IRAQ
Continued violence in Iraq has not only affected the public's opinion of how Bush is handling that situation, but it also appears to have elevated the war in Iraq to the top issue for the American public. In this poll, 25 percent name the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing the U.S. right now, ahead of economy and jobs, mentioned by 18 percent.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM FACING THE U.S. TODAY

War in Iraq
25%
Economy/jobs
18%
Terrorism
11%
Health care
6%

During the fall campaign, more voters had named the economy and jobs as the issue they would most like to hear the presidential candidates discuss in the campaign. The war in Iraq generally came in second.

The public is now nearly evenly divided over whether the U.S. did the right thing going to war with Iraq. Just 46 percent believe the U.S. did the right thing, down from 53 percent immediately before the election, and the lowest number since July.

RIGHT THING TO TAKE MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ?

Right thing
Now
46%
10/04
53%
9/04
54%
8/04
49%
12/03
64%

Should have stayed out
Now
48%
10/04
42%
9/04
39%
8/04
44%
12/03
28%

53 percent think things are going badly for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq; 52 percent said so in late October.

Although the first Iraqi election is scheduled for January, doubts have risen over whether the U.S. can possibly create a stable democracy there. 45 percent now think it is possible, but 46 percent say it is not possible. A year ago, the public thought it was possible for the U.S. to create a stable democracy in Iraq by 49 percent to 40 percent.

POSSIBLE FOR U.S. TO CREATE STABLE DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ?

Possible
Now
45%
11/2003
49%

Not possible
Now
46%
11/2003
40%

Seven in ten Republicans think it is possible for the U.S. to create a stable democracy in Iraq, but more than six in ten Democrats say it is not. 69 percent of those who think the U.S. did the right thing going to war in Iraq believe the U.S. can turn Iraq into a stable democracy, but the same number of those who think the U.S. should have stayed out say that is impossible.

For the first time since last April, more than half of Americans now view the war in Iraq as separate from the broader war on terror. By 51 percent to 43 percent, Americans now say Iraq is not part of the war on terror. Right before the presidential election earlier this month, 53 percent thought the Iraq war was part of the war on terror.

IS IRAQ WAR PART OF THE WAR ON TERROR?

Yes, major part
Now
34%
10/2004
42%

Yes, minor part
Now
9%
10/2004
11%

No, not part
Now
51%
10/2004
42%

For now, 44 percent say the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terror, but 38 percent say neither side is winning, and 12 percent think the terrorists are winning.

WINNING THE WAR ON TERROR

U.S. and its allies
Now
44%
9/2004
41%
12/2003
52%

Neither side
Now
38%
9/2004
38%
12/2003
33%

Terrorists
Now
12%
9/2004
14%
12/2003
9%

DOES PRESIDENT BUSH HAVE A MANDATE?

THE ISSUES: Tax Cuts
Americans are now somewhat more likely than they were earlier this year to say the tax cuts enacted during President Bush's first year in office have been good for the economy. 32 percent now say those federal tax cuts have been good for the economy, compared to 27 percent who said this in January. Today, 19 percent say they have been bad for the economy. Still, more of the public -- 45 percent -- continue to think the tax cuts have had no effect on the economy.

EFFECT OF 2001 TAX CUTS ON THE ECONOMY

Good for the economy
Now
32%
1/2004
27%

Bad for the economy
Now
19%
1/2004
17%

Have had no effect
Now
45%
1/2004
51%

45 percent of Americans say those tax cuts should be allowed to expire, but nearly as many -- 41 percent -- think they should be made permanent.

THE TAX CUTS PASSED IN 2001 SHOULD BE...

Made permanent
Now
41%
3/2004
39%

Allowed to expire
Now
45%
3/2004
44%

As for additional tax cuts, public opinion is mixed on how they might affect the economic picture. Three in 10 say more tax cuts would be good for the economy, but a quarter think further reductions in federal taxes would be bad economically. 37 percent think more tax cuts will have no effect on the economy.

EFFECT OF ADDITIONAL TAX CUTS ON THE ECONOMY

Good for the economy
31%
Bad for the economy
25%
Have no effect
37%

Half of those who supported Bush for president think more tax cuts would be good economically, while four in ten Kerry supporters think further tax cuts would be bad economically.

But Americans clearly are more concerned about the federal budget deficit than they are about having more tax cuts. 67 percent say reducing the deficit should be the higher priority now, while just 28 percent say cutting taxes should be the higher priority.

WHICH SHOULD BE THE HIGHER PRIORITY RIGHT NOW?

Cutting taxes
28%
Reducing the deficit
67%

THE ISSUES: Flat Tax
One suggestion has been to replace the current tax system with a flat tax, which would tax people of all incomes at one rate. 34 percent of Americans oppose the idea of a flat tax, and only 26 percent favor it. However, a sizable number don't know enough about a flat tax system to offer an opinion. These views are just about the same as they were in 1996, when Steve Forbes proposed a flat tax system while running for the Republican nomination for president.

FAVOR OR OPPOSE A FLAT TAX SYSTEM

Favor
Now
26%
1/1996
27%

Oppose
Now
34%
1/1996
33%

Don't know enough
Now
37%
1/1996
38%

Support for a flat tax drops even lower -- to 8 percent -- if such a system would eliminate the home mortgage deduction.

Those in the highest income brackets are most likely to support a flat tax. In fact, 54 percent of Americans overall do believe rich people would benefit most from a flat tax. Among those opposed to this system, 85 percent think the rich will benefit most.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM A FLAT TAX SYSTEM?

The rich
54%
The poor
6%
The middle class
26%
All equal
4%

In general, a majority of the public thinks those who earn more money should not just pay more in taxes, but should pay at a higher rate. 62 percent think people with higher incomes should be paying out a greater proportion of taxes. A third thinks people of all income groups should be paying the same tax rate.

THE ISSUES: Social Security
Half of Americans do not think the Social Security system will have the money available to provide the benefits they expect for retirement. Even so, many are not convinced that privatizing the Social Security system is a good idea.

49 percent say allowing people to invest portions of their Social Security on their own is a good idea, but 45 percent think it is a bad idea.

PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY

Good idea
49%
Bad idea
45%

Republicans and Democrats hold opposing views on this issue. A majority of Republicans favor privatizing Social Security, while about the same number of Democrats oppose it. Also, younger Americans are more open than older Americans to the idea of people investing social security taxes on their own.

Still, eight in 10 Americans say if people choose to invest their Social Security tax in the stock market and lose their money, it is not the government's responsibility to make up the losses.

THE ISSUES: The U.S. Supreme Court
President Bush will likely have the opportunity to appoint a number of justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his second term. Looking ahead, 35 percent of Americans expect the President's nominees will be more conservative than they would like, 10 percent say they will not be conservative enough, while 44 percent think the nominees will be about right.

WILL BUSH'S NOMINEES TO THE SUPREME COURT BE …

More conservative than you would like
35%
Less conservative
10%
About right
44%

64 percent think Bush will nominate justices who will vote to make abortion against the law, while just 17 percent think he will nominate justices who will vote to keep abortion legal. Those on both sides of the abortion issue think Bush will choose nominees that will vote to make abortion illegal.

BUSH'S NOMINEES TO THE SUPREME COURT ARE MORE LIKELY TO …

Vote to keep abortion legal
17%
Vote to make abortion illegal
64%

Americans continue to have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court as an institution. 41 percent have a great deal or a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court, and another 39 percent of have some confidence. Just 18 percent have little or no confidence in the high court. A majority of people holding all ideologies express confidence in the Supreme Court.

CONFIDENCE IN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

Great deal
20%
Quite a lot
21%
Some
39%
Very little/none
18%

THE ISSUES: Faith-based Initiatives
One Bush proposal has clear majority support in principle: 57 percent of Americans favor giving federal money to faith-based organizations to assist them in running social programs, while 38 pecent oppose this idea. Shortly after Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, 63 percent of Americans favored giving federal money to faith-based organizations.

DO YOU FAVOR OR OPPOSE GIVING FEDERAL MONEY TO FAITH-BASED INSTITUTIONS?

Favor
Now
57%
2/2001
63%

Oppose
Now
38%
2/2001
31%

However, 74 percent say it is unacceptable for religious organizations providing federally funded social services to promote their religious beliefs at the same time.

CORPORATE INFLUENCE
Two-thirds of Americans, including 42 percent of Republicans, say large corporations have too much influence on the Bush Administration. In the past, a majority of the public said that "big business" had too much influence on the Administration.

INFLUENCE OF LARGE CORPORATIONS ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

Too much
All
66%
Rep.
42%
Dem.
83%
Ind.
70%

Too little
All
4%
Rep.
2%
Dem.
5%
Ind.
4%

Right amount
All
19%
Rep.
42%
Dem.
5%
Ind.
15%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 885 adults interviewed by telephone November 18-21, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults and all registered voters.

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


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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