Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the country is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February. One year ago, 55 percent of people polled said the United States was on the wrong track.
"Obviously, it's the winter of our discontent," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
Republican Party leaders said the survey explains why GOP lawmakers are rushing to distance themselves from Bush on a range of issues — port security, immigration, spending, warrantless eavesdropping and trade, for example.
A political storm has been brewing in Washington over the company to take over operations of six American ports. President Bush said Friday he was troubled by the GOP-forced the reversal of the deal, saying it sent a bad message to U.S. allies in the Middle East.
The positioning is most intense among Republicans facing election in November and those considering 2008 presidential campaigns.
"You're in the position of this cycle now that is difficult anyway. In second term off-year elections, there gets to be a familiarity factor," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a potential presidential candidate.
"People have seen and heard (Bush's) ideas long enough and that enters into their thinking. People are kind of, `Well, I wonder what other people can do,"' he said.
The poll suggests that most Americans wonder whether Mr. Bush is up to the job. The survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday of 1,000 people, found that just 37 percent approve of his overall performance. That is the lowest of his presidency.
A February CBS News poll found President Bush's approval rating had fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.
On issues, Mr. Bush's approval rating declined from 39 percent to 36 percent for his handling of domestic affairs and from 47 percent to 43 percent on foreign policy and terrorism. His approval ratings for dealing with the economy and Iraq held steady, but still hovered around 40 percent.