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Mixed Reviews For Bush

President George W. Bush's first measure of job approval is mixed, a CBS News poll finds.

Mr. Bush's early approval ratings are low compared with several other past presidents, but his disapproval ratings are lower than those President Bill Clinton received during his first weeks in office in 1993.

And while Bush receives credit for being empathetic, the public continues to doubt his ability to manage foreign affairs and many people think he will not be in charge of his own administration.

Fifty three percent of respondents approve of the job Bush is doing as president, and 21 percent disapprove. Bush's ratings are only slightly better than Clinton's were in the early days of his presidency. Then, 53 percent approved of the job Clinton was doing and 30 percent disapproved. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all received higher marks in the first CBS News polls conducted after their inaugurations than Bush does now.

30 percent

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Presidential Job Approval

 G.W. Bush NowClinton 2/93G.H.W. Bush 2/89Reagan 4/81Carter 4/77

53 percent

53 percent

61 percent

67 percent

64 percent

 G.W. Bush NowClinton 2/93G.H.W. Bush 2/89Reagan 4/81Carter 4/77

21 percent

9 percent

18 percent

20 percent


Bush receives his highest ratings from men (58 percent approve of him) and high income Americans (63 percent of those with incomes over $50,000 approve). He receives his lowest marks from blacks; by almost four to one, African-Americans disapprove of the job he is doing.

Partisan affiliation also plays a role in views of Bush's presidency. 83 percent of Republicans approve of him, but Democrats are more evenly divided — 36 percent disapprove, and 32 percent approve.

Lingering questions about the election remain a problem for Bush, since even now only half think he won legitimately. Forty one percent think he did not, including three quarters of blacks, and negativity about the Bush presidency is particularly high among those who think he did not win legitimately; 45 percent of this group disapproves of the job Bush is doing as president.

In the public’s view, Bush has a number of strengths. Fifty nine percent view him as a strong leader, although this is down from just before the election, when 70 percent called him a leader. More than half of the public perceives him as caring about their needs and problems and a similar number say he cares about the needs and problems of blacks and other minorities. However, only 19 percent of blacks think he cares about the needs of black and minorities.

But doubts about Bush's ability to manage foreign affairs persist. Forty three percent are confident he could deal wisely with an international crisis, but 45 percent are uneasy about his approach. This perception is similar to views held just before Bush’s inauguration.

Doubts persist about whether Bush will be running his administration. Only 42 percent think Bush will really be in charge of what goes on in his administration; 45 percent believe other people will really be running the government most of the time. However, this represents an improvement since last month, when 38 percent thought Bush would be running the government and 53 percent thought other people would be in charge.

Personal ratings of Bush have improved since the inauguration. Last month, 44 percent had a favorable view of Bush, and 30 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Although at 42 percent his favorable ratings are almost unchanged since January, unfavorable views have dropped to 24 percent.

During his campaign, George W. Bush pledged to put an end to partisanship in Washington. Three weeks into the Bush administration, the public says they have seen some progress in his bipartisanship effort, though some rancor still remains. Twenty eight percent of the public thinks Bush has made progress at bringing Democrats and Republicans in Washington together, although a majority says the two parties are still fighting just as much as they did before Bush took office.

Republicans are more enthusiastic about President Bush’s effort to end partisanship – 45 percent of Republicans say Bush has made progress in bringing Democrats and Republicans together, while about a third of Republicans say the two parties are still fighting. In contrast, two out of three Democrats say there is just as much partisanship now as before Bush took office, and only 17 percent think Bush has made progress.

Overall, the public is generally optimistic about the likelihood of Bush and both parties in Congress working together. 67 percent think Bush will be able to work with members of both parties to get things done, and six in 10 believe Democrats in Congress will work with Bush. These assessments have not changed since Bush took office.

While more than eight in 10 Republicans believe Bush will work with members of both parties, Democrats are less sure. Half of Democrats think Bush will be able to work in a bipartisan fashion, while 43 percent do not think so. Both Democrats and Republicans agree, however, that Democrats in Congress will work with President Bush in order to get things done.

Many people assume the work of Congress will go on just as before. Just under a third of the public expects the closely divided Congress to do a better job in trying to solve the country’s problems; about one in 10 expects the new Congress to do a worse job, and just over half think the new Congress, with its close division of seats, will do bout the same job as in the past.

Despite the close partisan division, the public's views of Congress are quite positive. Now, 48 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, and 31 percent disapprove.

Vice President Dick Cheney receives strong job approval ratings on this first measure of the job he is doing. Fifty two percent approve of the job he is doing, and 11 percent disapprove. Still, 37 percent aren't sure.

On the heels of new scandals about his pardon of Mark Rich, his expensive New York City office space and the removal of gifts and furniture from the White House, favorable ratings of former President Bill Clinton have dropped in the past few weeks. When he left office, he held some of the highest favorable ratings of the eight years he spent in office. Now, just 48 percent have a favorable view of Clinton, and 39 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Last month, 57 percent had a favorable opinion and 35 percent had an unfavorable view.

This poll was conducted by telephone February 10-12, 2001, among 1,124 adults nationwide. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

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