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Poll: Bush's Approval Remains Low

President Bush's approval rating is stuck at a dismal 42 percent as he heads into next week's State of the Union address, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

Fifty-one percent of Americans give him a negative job approval rating. It's the first time in his presidency he'll give a State of the Union speech with a majority of the residents of the country saying they disapprove of the job he's doing.

While most Americans believe Mr. Bush displays strong leadership qualities, when it comes to helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, just 25 percent of those polled think the Bush administration has a clear plan.

The public is divided over Mr. Bush's secret domestic surveillance program, with just more than half saying they approve of his authorization of wiretaps without warrants to fight terrorism.

At the same time, a clear majority, 64 percent, is concerned that the Bush administration's anti-terrorism measures could threaten their civil liberties. A third are "very concerned."

Read the data and analysis from new CBS News polls on these topics:
  • The Bush Presidency and The State Of The Union (.pdf)
  • Congress, The Abramoff Scandals and The Alito Nomination (.pdf)

  • Mr. Bush vs. other presidents

    Mr. Bush's job approval rating, which never reached 50 percent during all of 2005, is significantly lower than other modern two-term presidents. Of the past five presidents elected to a second term, only Richard Nixon received lower ratings at the same point in his administration.

    Approval Ratings During Second Terms

    Bush, January 2006
    42 percent
    Clinton, January 1998
    58 percent
    Reagan, January 1986
    65 percent
    Nixon, January 1974 (Gallup Poll)
    26 percent
    Eisenhower, January 1958 (Gallup Poll)
    58 percent

    Hurricane Katrina

    Few Americans — 25 percent — believe the Bush administration has a clear plan for assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This number is up slightly from last month, but 67 percent of Americans continue to believe that the Administration does not have a clear plan for finding housing and jobs for the people left homeless by the Hurricane.

    Does the Bush administration have a clear plan to find homes and jobs for victims?

    25 percent
    67 percent

    The war in Iraq

    Americans continue to rank the war in Iraq as the country's most important problem, ahead of the economy and jobs. Nine percent name terrorism as the top concern, a jump of 5 percent from earlier this month, before the release of the new Osama bin Laden tape.

    Most Important Problem:

    War in Iraq
    22 percent
    Economy and jobs
    14 percent
    9 percent
    Health care
    4 percent
    The President
    4 percent
    Gas/heating oil
    4 percent

    Fifty-four percent of Americans say the war in Iraq is going badly, versus 45 percent who say it's going well.

    Many Americans are not convinced the president is painting an accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. Fifty-eight percent say he describes things as better than they are, while 31 percent say his descriptions are accurate. Three percent say things are worse than the president says.

    Although most Americans don't expect U.S. troops to leave Iraq anytime soon, a third of Americans now think U.S. troops will only have to remain in Iraq less than two years — the most optimistic Americans have been on this question since 2004.

    Abramoff Case

    Most Americans are not closely following the investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff: 60% say they're either not following closely or aren't following at all. Just 11% are following very closely.

    Are you following the news about the Abramoff case?

    Very closely
    11 percent
    Somewhat closely
    29 percent
    Not very closely or not at all
    60 percent

    To most Americans, these reports that lobbyists may have bribed members of Congress is not surprising: an overwhelming 77 percent say this is simply how things work in Congress, not just a few isolated incidents.

    Lobbyists' bribes of Congress are…

    Isolated incidents
    16 percent
    The way things work in Congress
    77 percent

    Congressional Approval

    The public continues to hold a dim view of Congress; just 29 percent approve of its job performance. Sixty-one percent disapprove — the highest number in a decade.

    Congress Job Approval

    29 percent
    61 percent

    Congressional approval has historically been low, rarely rising above 50% in the thirty years the CBS News Poll has been asking about it. But the past year was a particularly rough one for Congress on this measure.

    Last January, this Congress garnered 44 percent approval as it was sworn in, only to see that rating tumble to 29 percent by the spring of 2005 after the Terri Schiavo case, and then hit 27 percent in the first week of 2006 after the Abramoff scandal had made headlines.

    Health Care

    President Bush has mentioned health care in every State of the Union speech he has delivered — often promising tax credits, a Patients' Bill of Rights, and prescription drug coverage. At the start of Mr. Bush's sixth year in office, Americans continue to have serious concerns about the health care system — they think it needs fundamental changes and don't see it improving in the next few years.

    Nine out of ten Americans think the U.S. health care system needs fundamental changes or needs to be completely rebuilt.

    The U.S. health care system needs:

    Minor changes
    8 percent
    Fundamental changes
    56 percent
    To be completely rebuilt
    34 percent

    Nearly all Americans – 87 percent - are concerned about their own health care costs, including six in 10 who express a lot of concern.

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