Poll: Bush's Ratings Bump Up

U.S. President Bush waves after speaking about his war policy at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005. AP

There is good news and bad news in this poll for President George W. Bush. Americans have become more positive about the economy; more than half think the economy is in good shape, an 8-point increase since October.

The President's overall approval rating has risen from 35 percent in October to 40 percent now, and his ratings on handling the economy and the war in Iraq have also improved.

But while this poll shows some improvement in Americans' views about how the war in Iraq is going, most continue to say it is going badly. Americans remain firm in their desire for U.S. troops to at least start coming home, and would like to see a timetable for that process.

Although President Bush has said he will not do this, 58 percent of Americans want the United States to set a timetable for troop withdrawal.

SHOULD U.S. SET TIMETABLE FOR TROOP WITHDRAWAL?

Yes
58%

No
39%

But many are leery about the impact of removing U.S. troops; just under half think that would bring more violence to Iraq, and 40 percent -- an increase of eight points since August -- think the likelihood of terrorism against the United States could increase.

VIOLENCE IN IRAQ IF TROOPS WITHDRAWN

More
Now
46%
Less
12%
Same
38%

Aug. 2005
Now
48%
Less
11%
Same
37%

TERRORISM AGAINST U.S. IF TROOPS WITHDRAWN

Increase
Now
40%

Aug. 2005
32%

Decrease
Now
8%

Aug. 2005
11%

No change
Now
49%

Aug. 2005
54%

Americans overwhelmingly say they are still waiting to hear the Bush Administration clearly articulate U.S. goals in Iraq and a strategy for victory, and it is the war that motivates most Americans who disapprove of how the President is doing his job. Fifty-three percent of them say the war is the single biggest reason why they disapprove.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ

Most Americans continue to want the number of U.S. troops to be decreased or withdrawn altogether, although only 28 percent want troops completely withdrawn now. Those figures have not changed much in the last few months.

U.S. TROOP LEVELS IN IRAQ SHOULD BE…

Increased
Now
11%

Sept. 2005
10%

Kept the same
Now
24%

Sept. 2005
26%

Decreased
Now
32%

Sept. 2005
27%

Remove all troops
Now
28%

Sept. 2005
32%

Most Republicans support maintaining or even increasing the number of troops in Iraq, but most Democrats and Independents want U.S. troops to be decreased or withdrawn. Among war opponents, 44 percent want all troops removed now. Just 12 percent of those who think going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do agree.

Six in 10 say they would agree with President Bush's statement that removing U.S. troops from Iraq now would be "a recipe for disaster."

REMOVING U.S. TROOPS FROM IRAQ: RECIPE FOR DISASTER?

Yes
61%

No
34%

In his address in Annapolis last week, President Bush said that progress is being made training Iraqis to take over handling the security of their country, and nearly half agree that at least some progress is being made. But only 14 percent think there has been a lot of progress, and 34 percent think there has been some. Twenty-four percent think there has been not much or no progress, and 28 percent don't know enough to say.

PROGRESS IN TRAINING IRAQI TROOPS

A lot
14%

Some
34%

Not much/none
24%

Don't know
28%

Despite his recent efforts to explain America's Iraq policy, most Americans say the Bush Administration has still not clearly explained what the U.S.' goals are in Iraq. Most Republicans say they have, but most Democrats and Independents don't see that clarity.

HAS THE BUSH ADMIN. EXPLAINED U.S. GOALS IN IRAQ?

Yes
35%

No
61%

Nor do Americans think the President has developed clear plans either for winning in Iraq, or for bringing the troops home. Nine in 10 Democrats see no plan for victory, and neither do three quarters of Independents. One-third of Republicans agree that they do not see one, either.

DOES GEORGE W. BUSH HAVE A PLAN FOR…

Victory in Iraq
Yes
25%

No
68%

Bringing troops home
Yes
25%

No
70%

Americans continue to say they've received no explanation about how long troops will be needed.

HAS BUSH ADMIN. EXPLAINED HOW LONG TROOPS WILL STAY IN IRAQ?

Yes
Now
15%

March 2004
15%

Sept. 2003
17%

No
Now
81%

March 2004
79%

Sept. 2003
76%

Given the lack of progress in training Iraqi troops, and little perception that the White House has a plan, Americans don't expect most U.S. troops to come home anytime soon. Sixty-five percent say U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for at least two years, including 28 percent who think it likely they will be there for more than five years. Only 26 percent think U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for two years or less.

HOW MUCH LONGER WILL U.S. TROOPS HAVE TO STAY IN IRAQ?

Less than a year
6%

One to two years
20%

Two to five years
37%

More than five years
28%

There is limited optimism about Iraq's prospects for democracy. Fifty-one percent of Americans do think Iraq will become a stable democracy (although most think that will take more than a year or two), while 47 percent think that will never happen. Similar percentages felt that way in October.

ASSESSING THE WAR IN IRAQ

Americans now display slightly more optimism about the war's progress than they did in October, but more continue to think it is going badly. However, the percentage who says it is going well has risen to 46 percent in this poll, up from 40 percent in October. Fifty-two percent think the war is going badly.

HOW IS THE WAR GOING?

Very/somewhat well
Now
46%

Oct. 2005
40%

Very/somewhat badly
Now
52%

Oct. 2005
57%

But Americans continue to doubt whether the President is being realistic when he describes conditions in Iraq: most think he is describing the situation there as better than it really is. This has not changed since the summer.

BUSH DESCRIBES THE SITUATION IN IRAQ:

Better than it really is
Now
58%

Aug. 2005
57%

Worse than it really is
Now
4%

Aug. 2005
5%

Accurately
Now
33%

Aug. 2005
29%

In evaluating the war overall, Americans are evenly divided. 48% of Americans think taking military action against Iraq was the right thing to do, up from 42% in October. An equal number thinks the U.S. ought to have stayed out of Iraq. But current support for the war is at its highest point since last July.

DID U.S. DO THE RIGHT THING GOING TO WAR WITH IRAQ?

Right thing
Now
48%

Oct. 2005
42%

July 2005
48%

Should have stayed out
Now
48%

Oct. 2005
50%

July 2005
46%

The rise in support for the war can be traced to an increase among members of the President's own party; 83 percent of Republicans now think going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do, up from 74 percent in October. Support for the war remains unchanged among Democrats (22 percent) and Independents (43 percent). Increases in support for the war since October are also seen in a number of other demographic groups: those aged 18 to 29 (44 percent now think the war was the right thing to do, up from 34 percent), 45 to 64 year-olds (now 50 percent, up from 40 percent) and women (44 percent, up from 36 percent).

THE RATIONALE FOR WAR

The Bush Administration continues to face criticism from many Democrats and other war opponents about the way pre-war intelligence was handled, and whether there truly was a compelling connection between Iraq and the terror threat to the United States.

Fifty-two percent of Americans think the Bush Administration deliberately misled the public in making the case for war, while 44 percent say it did not.

DID BUSH ADMINISTRATION INTENTIONALLY MISLEAD PUBLIC IN MAKING CASE FOR WAR?

Yes
All
52%

Reps
18%

Dems
76%

Indep
57%

No
All
44%

Reps
78%

Dems
19%

Indep
39%

Democrats and Independents say the Bush Administration misled the country, Republicans disagree.

Asked whether President Bush himself was telling the entire truth or not in discussing WMDs before the war, one-quarter of Americans suspect the President of mostly lying, while many others – 45 percent - say he was mostly telling the truth but also hiding something. About another quarter say he was telling the entire truth.

BEFORE THE WAR, BUSH STATEMENTS ON WMD'S WERE:

Telling entire truth
23%

Mostly telling truth, but hiding something
45%

Mostly lying
25%

When asked to volunteer the reason they believe the Administration ultimately decided to go to war, just 9 percent name the search for WMDs as the main reason. Many say the reason was to protect the United States from terrorism, (15 percent), to depose Saddam Hussein (10 percent) or to protect the United States, generally (4 percent). Others offer more cynical views on the Administration's motives: 17 percent say it was to bolster U.S. oil interests, and another 13 percent say President George W. Bush was out to personally finish something his father, President George H.W. Bush, had started. Eight percent say it was specifically because of the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

WHY DID BUSH ADMIN. DECIDE TO GO TO WAR?

U.S. Oil interests
17%

Fight terrorism
15%

Finish what his father started
13%

To depose Saddam Hussein
10%

Find/stop WMDs
9%

Because of 9/11
8%

Protect U.S. generally
4%

Promote democracy in Mideast
2%

Cheney/Rumsfeld wanted to
2%

Those who think the United States should have stayed out of Iraq are far more likely to see oil interests or personal motives of the President at work in the decision to invade.

An overwhelming majority of Americans think this Congress should be asking questions about pre-war intelligence. Fifty-six percent call it a very important line of questioning, and another 24 percent call it somewhat important. Democrats and Independents call it very important, while most Republicans also give it at least some importance.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR CONGRESS TO QUESTION BUSH ADMIN ABOUT PRE-WAR INTELLIGENCE?

Very important
56%

Somewhat important
24%

Not too/not at all important
18%

And given how important the matter is to them, Americans say they aren't seeing enough questioning from Congress on the issue. Most – 57 percent - say Congress isn't asking enough questions. About one-fourth, most of them Republicans, say Congress is asking too many.

CONGRESS' QUESTIONING OF BUSH ADMIN.'S IRAQ POLICY IS:

Too much
23%

Not enough
57%

Right amount
13%

The Administration has consistently asserted that the Iraq war is a key part – even the central front – of the war on terror. On this, as on so many aspects of the war, Americans continue to divide. A majority hasn't said Iraq is a major part of the war on terror in CBS News Polls since the spring of 2003.

IS IRAQ PART OF THE WAR ON TERRORISM?

Yes, major part
Now
41%

July 2005
39%

Nov. 2004
34%

May 2003
51%

Yes, minor part
Now
12%

July 2005
12%

Nov. 2004
9%

May 2003
14%

No, not part
Now
43%

July 2005
46%

Nov. 2004
51%

May 2003
32%

Similarly, Americans are not certain of the payoff from the Iraq war in terms of their own safety. Thirty-five percent today say the United States is safer as a result of the war, but 22 percent say they are less safe, and 41 percent say the war has had no impact.

IRAQ WAR IS MAKING THE U.S…

Safer from terrorism
Now
35%

Oct. 2005
32%

Jan. 2004
50%

Less safe from terrorism
Now
22%

Oct. 2005
24%

Jan. 2004
18%

No difference
Now
41%

Oct. 2005
42%

Jan. 2004
29%

RATING THE PRESIDENT: THE IMPACT OF IRAQ

President Bush's job approval rating has risen in this poll to 40 percent now, up from 35 percent in October. While this is the highest it has been since September, the President's approval rating has remained below 50 percent throughout 2005. A majority today still disapproves.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL

Approve
40%

Disapprove
53%

The President's approval rating has risen the most among men, conservatives, and 18 to 29 year olds.

The war in Iraq is by far the biggest reason Americans volunteer for disapproving of the job Bush is doing as president – it is the answer given by more than half who disapprove. Smaller numbers say that the President is doing a bad job generally, that he is dishonest, or mention his positions on other domestic issues.

WHY DISAPPROVE OF BUSH'S JOB? (Asked of those who disapprove of Bush's job)

Iraq war
53%

Doing a bad job generally
8%

Dishonest
8%

Other domestic issues
6%

Other personal qualities
5%

Economy/jobs
4%

Among those who approve, 35 percent say the President is doing a good job generally. Another 13 percent mention the war in Iraq. The President's personal qualities and positions on issues are also among the top reasons given.



Doing a good job generally
35%

Iraq war
13%

Honest
8%

Other personal qualities
6%

Agree with him on issues
5%

His party/ideology
5%

Handling of terrorism
5%

Positive economic news (on the heels of the bad economic news post-Katrina) may have led to the President's 4-point increase in approval on handling the economy, which now stands at 38 percent. His rating on Iraq has also risen by 4 percentage points.

PRES. BUSH JOB APPROVALS

Overall
Now
40%

Oct. 2005
35%

Terrorism
Now
48%

Oct. 2005
47%

Economy
Now
38%

Oct. 2005
34%

Foreign policy
Now
36%

Sept. 2005
38%

Iraq
Now
36%

Oct. 2005
32%

Just under half of Americans see the President as having strong qualities of leadership, but nearly as many don't see him that way. This used to be an area of strength for the President, but his ratings have been low for the past year.

DOES BUSH HAVE STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP?

Yes
Now
49%

Oct. 2005
49%

Jan. 2004
64%

May 2003
70%

Feb. 2001
59%

No
Now
48%

Oct. 2005
47%

Jan. 2004
33%

May 2003
26%

Feb. 2001
31%

Perceptions of the president's honesty and integrity remain lower than ratings he received in 2003 on this measure.

COMPARED TO MOST PEOPLE IN PUBLIC LIFE, BUSH'S HONESTY & INTEGRITY IS…

More
Now
41%

Oct. 2005
39%

Sept. 2003
53%

About same
Now
29%

Oct. 2005
27%

Sept. 2003
30%

More
Now
22%

Oct. 2005
29%

Sept. 2003
14%

Confidence in the President's ability to handle a crisis has also risen slightly since September, from 27 percent to 31 percent. His rating on this measure has hovered at around three in 10 since September -- a far cry from the 66 percent he received in 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks.

The public remains skeptical of the Bush Administration's leadership in dealing with the problems people face as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Half of all Americans disapprove of the way President Bush handled the response to the hurricane, while 42 percent approve.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF KATRINA RESPONSE?

Approve
Now
42%

Oct. 2005
45%

Disapprove
Now
51%

Oct. 2005
52%

When asked about their confidence in President Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the problems faced by the victims of Katrina, the public gives similar responses. 39% of Americans say they are confident in his approach, 54% say they are uneasy.

Only 20% of Americans believe the Administration has a clear plan for finding housing and jobs for the people dislocated by the storm. 66% believe the Administration hasn't developed one yet. African Americans are much more likely than whites to believe that the Administration does not have a clear plan.

DOES BUSH ADMIN. HAVE CLEAR PLAN TO FIND HOMES & JOBS FOR VICTIMS?

Yes
20%

No
66%

As the President's approval rating has risen a bit, his favorable rating has also risen somewhat -- to 38 percent now, up from 33 percent in October. His unfavorable rating is also down five points.

Vice President Dick Cheney's image among Americans is primarily negative. Twenty percent have a favorable image of the Vice President, but twice as many – 41 percent -- have a negative view. These ratings have not changed much since October.

For Part 2 of the poll, click here.
  • Sean Alfano

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