WASHINGTON – Candidate George W. Bush built his presidential campaign on strong personal traits, a priority on education and less popular but consistent conservative stands.
President Bush has built his public support on the same foundations, a new poll suggests.
Bush's standing in public opinion has been boosted by broad approval of his work on education and Americans' high regard for personal qualities like character, honesty and vision, says an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday.
The poll suggested six in 10 Americans, 59 percent, currently approve of the job Bush is doing. Slightly more said they like Bush personally.
Bush's job approval dipped to the low 50s in several polls in early summer and was in the mid-50s in ABC News-Washington Post polling then.
His approval level in this poll was slightly lower than most presidents at the corresponding stage over the past 50 years, but higher than the approval for Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford. His support is tempered by deep reservations about his priorities.
A majority polled felt Bush is out of touch with people like them, think big business has too much influence over his administration and are lukewarm to his handling of issues such as prescription drugs, the environment, energy and patients' rights.
Two-thirds of Americans say large corporations, wealthy people and oil and gas companies have too much influence on the Bush administration.
By a 2-1 margin, people said it was more important to provide needed services than hold down the size of government. By a similar margin, more people thought Bush was more interested in holding down the size of government than providing needed services.
More than six in 10 said they doubt the Bush administration's almost $1.4 trillion tax cut will help the economy, and just over half say it will leave too little money to keep the budget balanced and pay for federal programs.
Bush has the support of the majority on his handling of education, the economy, international affairs and defense.
He is scoring best these days on personal qualities, with two-thirds saying he has strong personal character, is a good commander in chief and has a vision for the future.
Almost that many said he is honest and trustworthy. When asked whether he told the truth during the presidential campaign about the kinds of programs and policies he would pursue as president, six in 10 agreed.
By contrast, a majority in August 1993 said then-President Clinton did not tell the truth during the campaign.
While Bush's overall ratings remained healthy, the poll suggested that the nation remains sharply divided politically.
If the election were rerun today, 48 percent said they'd back Bush and 46 percent said Democrat Al Gore — about as close as the split decision last November.
And they were evenly split on the question of whether the country should go in the direction Bush wants to lead it or in the direction that congressional Democrats want to go.
The poll of 1,352 adults was taken July 26 through Monday and has an error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.