Economy Boosts Clinton's Standing

Despite the dual uncertainties of possible military action against Iraq and questions about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton maintained a high public approval rating in the latest CBS News/New York Times Poll.

Sixty-eight percent approved of the way Mr. Clinton is handling his job as president. A somewhat smaller number--61 percent--approved of the way he is handling foreign policy.

An astonishing 75 percent approved of Mr, Clinton's handling of the economy. This is the highest rating ever given a president on the economy since CBS News and The New York Times began asking this question during the administration of Gerald Ford.

Do You Approve or Disapprove of how President Clinton is Handling the Following Areas?

Eighty-eight percent, another record high, say the economy is in good shape. And 58 percent say the economy today is better than it was five years ago, when Mr. Clinton first became president.

The President's Current Performance
Opinion of Mr. Clinton's job performance may have actually been boosted by the President s personal lack of response to questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The most popular reason given when asked by those who approve of the way he is handling his job is that he is remaining focused, and continues to do his job.

One-third say Mr. Clinton is doing a better job now than they expected when he became president, and only 8 percent say he's doing a worse job.

The evaluation of Mr. Clinton's job performance both compared to expectations and compared with other presidents has improved in the last year. Now 17 percent say he's been a very good president, and 35 percent say he s been a good president.

How Do You Rate Bill Clinton as a President?

But the high ratings shrink when the public is asked about Mr. Clinton's person conduct. Forty-two percent say Mr. Clinton's personal conduct is worse than they expected. However, Americans expect less in a president's personal conduct than they do in a president's professional conduct.

As for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, two of three Americans say the public doesn't need to know what took place, and three out of four say they personally don't want to know.

That view changes when the issue is potentially suborning perjury. Sixty-one percent say it s important for the public to know if that happened, and by 53-to-45 percent margin, Americans say they personally would want to know if that happened.

The poll was completed before word of a possible settlement emerged Sunday from Baghdad. Given the option, Americans would prefer to fight Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Two-thirds say what happens in Iraq is very important to the interests of the United States, and overall support increases if the missin becomes removing Saddam Hussein from power.

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