Bush's Approval Ratings Stay Low

President George W. Bush's job approval rating is now just 42 percent, and most Americans think he does not share their priorities.

Iraq and the economy -- not the President's signature issue of Social Security -- are most important to Americans, and Americans' assessments of both remain mixed, with support for the decision to send troops to Iraq matching its lowest percent ever.

Regarding Social Security, months of campaigning have not brought public acceptance of the personal accounts the President desires, nor resulted in increased confidence in his ability to make the right decisions about that program. In fact, many Americans claim they like Bush's plan less the more they hear about it.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
President Bush's job approval rating has dropped this month to just 42 percent, while 51 percent disapprove. His current approval rating is near the low reached in May 2004, after news and photos from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal were made public.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL

Approve
Now
42%
5/2005
46%
5/2004
41%

Disapprove
Now
51%
5/2005
48%
5/2004
52%

Bush's job approval dropped significantly since last month among people aged 30 to 44, from 52 percent to 40 percent now. Approval among those in middle-income households (incomes between $30,000 and $50,000) also dropped, from 46 percent in May to 40 percent now. Bush also lost ground among white Catholics.

However, the President retains the approval of some key constituent groups. More than 8 in ten Republicans approve of the job he is doing, unchanged in the past month, as do about 7 in ten white evangelical Christians. About two in three conservatives approve of him.

On Iraq, the President's 37 percent approval rating (not much different from the 38 percent he received last month) is also similar to the low ratings he received last summer. The percentage of Americans who say taking military action against Iraq was the right thing to do is now at 45 percent, matching the lowest level ever found in this poll. 51 percent think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ

Right thing
Now
45%
4/2005
47%
1/2005
45%
10/2004
53%

Should have stayed out
Now
51%
4/2005
48%
1/2005
49%
10/2004
42%

By 60 percent to 40 percent, Americans think things are going badly for the U.S. in Iraq rather than well.


Bush's approval ratings on specific issues are also low, in some cases approaching all-time lows for this President.

Even when it comes to terrorism, the President's strongest issue, approval has dropped 6 points since last month, and now is just above last year's lowest rating of 51 percent on this issue.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVALS

Overall
Approve
42%
Disapprove
51%

Campaign against terrorism
Approve
52%
Disapprove
40%

The economy
Approve
39%
Disapprove
56%

Foreign policy
Approve
39%
Disapprove
51%

War in Iraq
Approve
37%
Disapprove
59%

Handling Social Security
Approve
25%
Disapprove
62%

The President fares worst when it comes to opinion of his handling of Social Security. Despite Bush's months-long promotion of his plan for Social Security, only one in four Americans approves of the way he is handling the issue.

In addition, two in three Americans are uneasy about Bush's approach to Social Security; only 27 percent have confidence in his ability to deal with it. Even some (but not most) Republicans are skeptical. 32 percent of Republicans disapprove of Bush's handling of the issue, and 35 percent are uneasy about his approach.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF SOCIAL SECURITY

Confident
27%
Uneasy
66%

SOCIAL SECURITY: THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN
The American public does see President George W. Bush as having a plan for change -- many more than say his fellow Republicans in Congress or the Democrats do. Although Americans see real trouble for Social Security, they don't show much affinity for Bush's remedies.

In fact, 42 percent say the more they've heard about Bush's proposals, the less they like them. Only 12 percent say that the more they've learned, the more they like Bush's plan.

THE MORE YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT BUSH'S PROPOSALS...

The more you like them
12%
The less you like them
42%
Views haven't changed
34%
Haven't heard about them
7%

Some of the reluctance may be because the stakes are quite high: most Americans -- especially middle-aged and older Americans -- see Bush's proposals as fundamental reforms to the Social Security system, not just minor changes.

BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY PROPOSALS ARE...

Fundamental changes
All
51%
18-29
37%
30-44
49%
45-64
58%
64+
57%

Overall support remains lukewarm at best for the cornerstone of the President's plan -- personal investment accounts. 45 percent think it's a good idea while 50 percent think it's a bad idea, about the same levels as this poll found at the start of the President's efforts.

Support for personal Social Security accounts changes depending on the circumstances presented to them. The percentage that thinks such accounts are a good idea increases to 71% if the money in those accounts could be inherited by their children, and to 59% if people could potentially earn more money for retirement. However, the percentage drops to 22% if it would mean guaranteed benefits are reduced by a third, and to just 12% if the government has to borrow as much as $2 trillion dollars to set the program up.

LETTING INDIVIDUALS INVEST SOME SOCIAL SECURITY ON THEIR OWN IS…

A good idea
Now
45%
5/2005
47%
4/2005
45%
2/2005
43%
1/2005
45%

A bad idea
Now
50%
5/2005
47%
4/2005
49%
2/2005
51%
1/2005
50%

The public is doubtful that allowing people to invest their Social Security taxes themselves would do much for the program's solvency. 36% think permitting these accounts would make the Social Security system's finances worse, while 25% think the program's finances would improve. 27% think such accounts would have no impact on Social Security's solvency.


Reactions to a more detailed description of the President's plan in the poll were mixed.

When the plan is described as varying the rate of increases in benefits according to income along with the option of investing Social Security taxes in a personal investment account, 43 percent said it was a good idea and 48 percent a bad one.

PRESIDENT'S PLAN FOR SOCIAL SECURITY IS:

Good idea
43%
Bad idea
48%

More knowledge appears linked to even more negative views: 57 percent of those who have heard or read a lot about the President's plan think it's a bad idea.

Three in four Americans say they've heard at least some details of the President's ideas, up slightly from last month. 25 percent say they've heard a lot.

Although he may not have convinced people about the specifics of his plan, the President has indeed managed to put himself out in front of Congress on the issue: 77 percent of Americans are aware that George W. Bush has proposed changes to the Social Security system -- while just 44 percent say they know of any such proposals emanating from Bush's fellow Republicans in the House and Senate.

DOES ... HAVE A PROPOSAL TO CHANGE SOCIAL SECURITY?

Bush does
77%
Republicans in Congress do
44%
Democrats in Congress do
24%

Democrats, meanwhile, who have thus far resisted the President's plans, are viewed by just 24 percent as having any proposals of their own.

That's not necessarily a welcome stance for the minority party. Americans would like to see some counter-proposal from the Democrats -- 67 percent say the party should make it a priority to develop an alternative to Bush's ideas, instead of simply working to keep Social Security just as it is now. Even Democratic partisans -- who strongly dislike Bush's proposals -- want to see their party put something forward.

WHAT SHOULD DEMOCRATS DO NOW?

Work to keep Social Security as it is
All
24%
Reps
19%
Dems
29%
Ind
23%

Offer an alternative plan for change
All
67%
Reps
73%
Dems
66%
Ind
63%

Americans might want to see a plan from the Democrats because that party has been consistently seen as better able to deal with Social Security. In this poll, the Democrats have a 17-point advantage. However, Democrats have been unable to extend their lead on this measure in recent months.

WHICH PARTY WILL MAKE RIGHT DECISIONS ON SOCIAL SECURITY?

Democrats
Now
48%
2/2005
48%
7/2002
49%

Republicans
Now
31%
2/2005
31%
7/2002
30%

But Americans do see the troubles with Social Security as real, not just the product of political rhetoric. Just 36 percent say political leaders are only saying the system is in crisis to get what they want; 56 percent say it really is in such trouble.

REACTIONS: AGE AND CLASS
In the past, most Americans have said that Bush's tax cuts, and policies in general, have favored the rich over the middle class. In this poll, Americans took a similar view about Bush's Social Security proposals. 52 percent say his proposals in general would, if enacted, favor high income people.

BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY PROPOSALS WOULD BENEFIT…

High income people
52%
Middle income people
19%
Low income
12%
Haven't heard proposals
7%

The President has stressed that older people would be unaffected under his plan, and the public does indeed believe that younger people, not older ones, would be most impacted by it.

WHO WOULD BE MOST AFFECTED BY BUSH'S PLAN?

Younger people
65%
Older people
21%
Haven't heard proposals
7%


But even in this, there is no good news for the President: Americans think younger people would ultimately still be worse off under the President's plan.

BUSH'S PLAN WOULD MAKE YOUNGER PEOPLE…

(Among those who say young people are most affected)
Better off
35%
Worse off
54%

Even the youngest adults aged 18-29 believe that they would be most affected -- and worse off for it.

And in the end, few think the President will be able to get what he wants.

WILL BUSH BE ABLE TO MAKE SOCIAL SECURITY CHANGES?

Yes, he will
25%
No, we won't
59%
Haven't heard proposals
7%

THE PUBLIC'S PRIORITIES
Most Americans don't think the President shares their priorities for the country. Just 35 percent say he does, and 61 percewnt say he does not. Along with last month's poll, these are among the lowest marks Bush has ever received on this question. But even more Americans -- 71 percent -- think Congress does not share their priorities.

SHARES YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE COUNTRY?

Bush
Yes
35%
No
61%

Congress
Yes
19%
No
71%

When asked to volunteer the most important issue facing the country today, 19 percent mention the war in Iraq and 18 percent mention the economy and jobs. 6 percent volunteer terrorism, and 5 percent say health care. 4 percent mention Social Security. Views were similar last month.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM

Iraq
19%
Economy/jobs
18%
Terrorism
6%
Health care
5%
Social Security
4%
Moral values
4%

Approval ratings for Congress continue at the low levels seen since March; 33 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, and 53 percent disapprove.

A majority of Americans also continues to think the country is on the wrong track, with only one in three saying it's headed in the right direction. Those findings are similar to last month. 70 percent of Republicans think the country is going in the right direction, but only 10 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Independents agree.

THE ECONOMY
Views of the economy are mixed, and also not much different than they were last month. 54 percent think the economy is in good shape, 45 percent think it is in bad shape. But the outlook for the future is far from positive; 45 percent think the economy is staying the same, but 36 percent think it is getting worse, and only 18 percent think it is getting better.

ECONOMY IS...

Getting better
18%
Getting worse
36%
Staying the same
45%

Views of the economy have become more negative among one group of Americans in particular -- those aged 30 to 44 (the same group that has expressed lower job approval ratings of the President in this poll). 49 percent of this group thinks the economy is in good shape now, down from 59 percent last month. 49 percent think the economy is in bad shape, up from 39 percent.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1111 adults, interviewed by telephone June 10-15, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups is higher.
For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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