The media may be growing critical of the Bush administration and the war in Afghanistan, but the American people are firmly behind the president and his military strategy, according to a new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll released Friday.
The poll of 900 registered voters, conducted by telephone during the past week, found that Americans overwhelmingly approve of President Bush's job performance in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and of the way the United States is fighting terrorism, both at home and abroad.
Asked whether they approved or disapproved of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, 84 percent of respondents said they approved — the highest approval rate the president has earned since taking office, when his approval rate was 46 percent.
This confidence the nation has in the president appears to have been inspired since the attacks — the president's approval rating jumped from 55 percent in August to 81 percent on Sept. 21 and has been tracking at 80 percent or above since.
This support also appears to be crossing party lines, with 57 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Independents saying that the president is doing a "better job than expected" overall. About 35 percent of all respondents said the president's job performance was "same as expected." That percentage figure remained the same when broken down among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
The poll also revealed that Americans were united behind the nation's war effort. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they favored a military response to the terrorist attacks; broken down among party lines, that support tracked at 87 percent for Democrats; 94 percent of Republicans; and 87 percent of Independents. Eighty-two percent of respondents approve of the way the U.S. military action is being conducted and 77 percent said America should continue military action even if most other countries withdrew their support.
The results also indicated that Americans would support the government taking stiff measures to improve security at home. Though provisions of the new anti-terrorism legislation have raised civil liberty concerns, 83 percent of respondents said they supported allowing the government to hold suspected terrorists as long as necessary, even a year or more; 71 percent said the CIA should use any means necessary, including physical force, to obtain information that would protect the U.S. against terrorism.
And 65 percent said the U.S. should seal its borders and stop all immigration during the war on terrorism.
John Gorman, president of Opinion Dynamics, the polling company that conducts the surveys with the Fox News Channel, said any dissent that has been voiced against the war or the administration not only represents a small minority, but has not had much affect on the opinions of most Americans.
"So far the carping and complaining from small groups on the right and the left are not having a visible impact on public attitudes toward the administration," Gorman said.
Despite the rising toll of anthrax exposures and deaths and government alerts warning of possible future attacks, Americans appear to be keeping cool heads in this time of crisis and uncertainty. Though 59 percent said they do feel as if the country is at war, 58 percent said they felt life had "somewhat" returned to "normal" and 44 percent said they "personally" felt "back to normal" since Sept. 11.
As far as contracting anthrax, a plurality of respondents — 35 percent — said they were "not very" worried that they or their family members or friends would be exposed to the bacterium. Only 15 percent said they were "very" worried, while 31 percent said they were "somewhat" worried.
This sense of assurance may be attributable to the public's faith in the administration's leadership.
"Most people seem content to follow the president's lead on the issue of fighting terrorism and leave the details up to him and the administration," Gorman said. "Obviously events may change things, but for the moment 'United We Stand' seems to be holding as the motto of the day," he said.
Fox News' Dana Blanton contributed to this report.