Confidence In Bush Slipping

President Bush addressing workers at a Detroit Edison power plant, in Monroe, Michigan, promoting his Clear Skies air pollution bill, which environmentalists say has weaker restrictions than the Clean Air Act regulations which are currently in effect. 9-15-03

With the election now 13 months away, President Bush finds his ratings near the low-water mark of his presidency, reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.

His overall job approval hovers just above 50 percent – almost back to where he was before 9/11, and way down from his stratospheric ratings of 89 percent following the attacks on America.

White House officials say they expected the numbers to slide, but the dramatic drop has them troubled. The president's marks on foreign policy have hit new lows (44 percent approval), half of Americans (50 percent) don't have confidence in his ability to handle an international crisis, and a majority (53 percent) now believes the war in Iraq wasn't worth it – a big change from the heady days after the swift defeat of Saddam.

"Landing on the carrier, declaring the conflict over, this Romanesque sort of victory parade, certainly did raise the stakes," says historian James T. Smith. "And now those expectations are falling because people are seeing that the Iraq situation is not going according to plan."

And foreign policy had been President Bush's strong point.

Fifty-six percent of Americans now lack confidence in the president's economic decision-making, a reversal from just four months ago when 54 percent said they were confident – a result of three-million lost jobs and sputtering economic growth.

"Twenty-two months into the recovery, we still have fewer jobs than we had at the beginning of the recovery. That is a historical first. And the reason for that is that the economy is just not growing fast enough," says Christian Weller with the Economic Policy Institute.

And the mood of the nation is shifting: 56 percent now say the country is on the wrong track, a bad trend heading into an election year.

"I don't really see many policy options for the White House at this point to really boost the economy before election time," Weller says.

Looking ahead to the election, President Bush has lost what was a commanding lead. Voters are now evenly split – 44 percent to 44 percent – between Mr. Bush and an un-named Democrat; though more voters, 50 to 35 percent, believe the president will win re-election.

President Bush's strongest marks are on leadership. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think he's a strong leader. But in another troubling sign, the majority feels that leadership isn't focused on priorities that matter to them.