WASHINGTON – Polls taken after President Bush's State of the Union address suggest his message on the need for military action against Iraq resonated more strongly with the Republican-leaning audience than did his message on the economy.
By a 2-1 margin, speech watchers polled by CNN-USA Today-Gallup and ABC News said Bush made a convincing case about the need for the U.S. to take military action against Iraq.
A CBS News poll found Bush boosted support for military action against Iraq among viewers, but it also found those who watched the speech were equally split between taking military action soon and giving the United Nations more time.
Bush vowed Tuesday night to use the "full force and might of the U.S. military" if needed to disarm Saddam Hussein. He said he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations next week to "present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons program."
Bush asserted that the Iraqi leader has not accounted for up to 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulin toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agent and some 30,000 munitions that can be equipped with chemical weapons.
Key allies, including France and Germany, oppose military action in Iraq at present and want Bush to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time. On that point, the president said, "We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."
The speech had no immediate effect on opinions of the general population, according to the ABC News poll, which conducted an overall poll while also tracking viewers of the address.
More than six in 10 of the overall population supported military action against Iraq after the speech, but fewer than half, 46 percent, support it if the United Nations is opposed. Bush's overall job approval rating in the ABC poll was 62 percent, close to the levels he has had in recent polls that place him in the high 50s or 60 percent.
The ABC poll also suggested speech watchers were more impressed by his Iraq remarks.
Those in the Gallup poll were less convinced the economy will be helped by Bush's plans for speeding up tax cuts and pushing a new $674 billion plan that relies heavily on tax cuts. About half, 49 percent, said his program is likely to get this country out of its current economic problems, and 43 percent said it would not.
Half of the president's speech - delivered to a crowded House chamber and with hundreds of protesters on the Capitol lawn outside - was devoted to domestic policy, a recognition that the economy needs mending and that the new GOP-controlled Congress is eager to tackle issues ranging from overhauling Medicare to curtailing abortion to limiting damage awards from medical malpractice lawsuits.
Bush pressed Congress to give swift approval to the tax-cut plan. "Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure that Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place," the president said.
Those who watched the speech were more likely to be Republican than Democratic, which is typical in polls of those who watch such speeches. Pollsters say that those who like a president are more likely to tune in.
The ABC News poll of 781 adults, including 499 who watched the speech, had an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The CBS News poll of 638 who watched the speech had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll of 440 speech watchers had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.