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Bush Poll Numbers Scrape The Sky

As the first anniversary of his taking office approaches, President Bush receives high public approval ratings on his presidency in all areas, and he has exceeded the expectations Americans had for him at the start of his term, according to a CBS News poll.

Indeed, Mr. Bush has racked up the highest one-year approval rating for any president over the last 40 years.

His handling of the terrorist attacks and his success in Afghanistan have brought him public approval in other areas as well; most Americans approve of his handling of the economy, even as the largest majority since 1991 say the U.S. is now in a recession.

Positive feelings about Mr. Bush have even caused voters to revise their 2000 memories. In this poll, 51 percent say they voted for him in 2000, and just 35 percent say they voted for Democrat Al Gore, who actually won the popular vote nationwide.

The president's approval rating remains near the extraordinary level he has enjoyed since the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, 82 percent approve of the job he is doing as president.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls














Mr. Bush continues to receive high marks from majorities of groups who typically show little support for Republican presidents. His job approval rating is 54 percent among blacks, and 66 percent among Democrats. Not surprisingly, nearly all members of his own party approve of the job he is doing.

The public's view of Mr. Bush's presidency before the attacks was positive, but unremarkable. Prior to Sept. 11, the best rating he received was in March; 60 percent approved of the job he was doing then. His lowest rating came in August, when 50 percent approved.

Mr. Bush's one-year approval rating is higher than that of any past president over the last 40 years. The only two presidents whose one-year ratings even approach George W. Bush's are his father and John F. Kennedy. Both of those presidents had led the country through military conflicts in their first year; for George H.W. Bush, it was the successful capture of Manuel Noriega in Panama, for Kennedy it was the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs Invasion.

When asked what kind of president he has been so far, Mr. Bush has not only surpassed his predecessors with his positive overall evaluation, but he has also exceeded the public's expectations of a year ago.

Now, 71 percent say he has been a good president (including 34 percent who rate him very good), 23 percent say he is average and only 5 percent rate him as poor. In a poll cnducted just before his inauguration last year, 43 percent expected him to be good (14 percent thought he would be very good).

Neither Bill Clinton nor Mr. Bush's father received such high evaluations during their terms in office.

The events of Sept. 11 and its aftermath are the foundation upon which these positive views rest. When asked what they like most about him, 32 percent volunteer his handling of the terrorist attacks, and another 16 percent cite his handling of the war in Afghanistan. Eight percent mention his honesty and straightforwardness, and 7 percent cite his strong leadership.

When asked in 1995 what they like about President Clinton, fewer were able to name a specific aspect of his presidency they liked (43 percent said they didn't know).

But when asked what they like least about Mr. Bush's presidency, 48 percent don't know and 7 percent say nothing. Twelve percent dislike his handling of the economy, 8 percent dislike his policies overall, and 5 percent mention the tax cuts enacted in 2001.

Eighty-seven percent approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing handling the campaign against terrorism and 73 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy. Those high ratings undoubtedly contribute to his positive rating on handling the economy (57 percent), although public views of the economy are dismal. Seventy percent say the economy is now in recession, and fewer than one in five think it is getting better.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls

 Campaign against terrorismForeign policyEconomy






Specific examples of ways in which Mr. Bush has exceeded public expectations abound; compared to one year ago, he has risen in esteem on every quality measured in this poll, even on those with no obvious relationship to the aftermath of 9/11.

Most notably, on the one attribute directly related to Sept. 11, Mr. Bush's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis, the public’s confidence has increased by 31 points in the past year.

As a result, most Americans have good feelings about the rest of Mr. Bush’s remaining time in office. Seventy-five percent say they are optimistic about the next three years with Mr. Bush as president, and 18 percent are pessimistic. Once again, that is a more positive view than the public held during the terms of his four predecessors and more positive than their assessments as Mr. Bush began his inaugural honeymoon period one year ago.


At least for now, Americans are giving the current president a break on the economy, much as they did for his father during the Gulf War. Fifty-four percent say Mr. Bush has been paying as much attention as he could to the economy during this time of war, while 38 percent thought he should have paid more attention to it. That is almost identical to views of George H.W. Bush during the Gulf War, when the economy was also slipping.

While the gender gap may have shrunk on some other presidential evaluations, there is significant gender difference on this question. Fifty-nine percent of men say he has paid as much attention to the economy during the war in Afghanistan as he could. Only 49 percent of women say this.

But Mr. Bush should beware complacency on this issue; a small but growing number of Americans think the recession is due to his policies. In April 18 percent thought the recession had a lot to do with Mr. Bush's policies; now, 27 percent think this is the case. Fiftpercent now think the recession has a little to do with the president, and 16 percent think it has nothing to do with him.


The war on terrorism has benefited Mr. Bush, but done little for his vice president, who has remained out of public view for much of the time. Fifty-five percent approve of the job Dick Cheney is doing as vice president, not much different from one year ago. However, even after one year in office, 30 percent don't have an opinion – probably the result of his near invisibility publicly since September 11.

Still, 35 percent think Cheney's role as vice president is more important than that of previous vice presidents, and 44 percent think his role is the same as his predecessors. However, nearly one in five think his role is less important. Last March, only 6 percent thought that.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,030 adults, interviewed by telephone January 15-17, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points.

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

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