Widespread discontent with the war in Iraq was the primary factor in Mr. Bush's mostly lackluster ratings, but Americans also expressed unhappiness with the president's response to Hurricane Katrina and with his proposed overhaul of Social Security.
Mr. Bush started the year, the first of his second term, with a lower job approval rating than any two-term president in the past 50 years. And his numbers continued to sink from there.
In January, Mr. Bush's 49 percent rating was lower than that of Richard Nixon (51 percent), Bill Clinton (60 percent), Ronald Reagan (62 percent) and Dwight Eisenhower (74 percent) at the start of their second terms.
But that 49 percent was the best Mr. Bush would do all year. By April, more Americans disapproved of the job he was doing than approved. By October, his approval rating sank to a low of 35 percent, rebounding slightly to 40 percent by year's end.
Those who disapproved of Mr. Bush overwhemlmingly cited Iraq as the reason why. Fifty-three percent said the war was the main reason they weren't happy with the president, compared with 8 percent who said he was doing a bad job generally and another 8 percent who called him dishonest.
A growing number of Americans, up to 65 percent by October, said Mr. Bush did not share their priorities.
PRESIDENT BUSH'S 2005 APPROVAL RATINGS
Like his overall approval rating, Mr. Bush's numbers on Iraq continued to drop through the year. In January, 40 percent gave him a positive rating on handling Iraq; by December, that number had slipped to 36 percent.
In polls conducted late in the year, most Americans said Mr. Bush did not have a clear plan for victory in Iraq or for bringing U.S. troops home. Most said the U.S. should set a timetable for a troop withdrawal, something the president has resisted.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, says Mr. Bush would do well to heed the American people.
"I think that he should listen to the majority of Americans who feel we need a responsible, effective and speedy exit strategy," she said. "That we have done our job in Iraq and it's time to bring our men and women home."
At year's end, the country was evenly split on whether going to war had been the right decision: 48 percent saying it was and 48 percent saying it wasn't.
Mr. Bush received some of his lowest marks for his response to Hurricane Katrina. In a September poll, only 38 percent approved of how he acted in the aftermath of the devastating storm, while 58 percent disapproved. Nearly two-thirds said his response to Katrina was too slow.
The president's signature domestic policy initiative, a proposed overhaul of Social Security, also fared poorly. Many Americans weren't convinced the current system was facing a "crisis," as the White House claimed. Fifty-six percent said they were being told there was a crisis for political reasons.
In a July poll, just 29 percent said they approved of Mr. Bush's handling of Social Security, while 58 percent disapproved.
There was some positive news for the president on the economy. While his approval rating for handling the economy actually sank over the course of the year, from 42 percent in January to 38 percent in December, overall views of how the economy was doing rose sharply. By year's end, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, rated the nation's economy as somewhat or very good.
Americans were also slightly less pessimistic about the direction of the country at the end of the year. Thirty-one percent said the country was headed in the right direction in December, while 60 percent said it was on the wrong track – down 8 points from October.