As U.S. military troops begin to return home from Iraq, President Bush’s job approval rating slips and Americans turn their attention to the nation’s economy, with a clear majority saying a candidate’s position on the economy will matter most in deciding their vote in the next election.

The latest FOX News poll of American voters, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation on April 22-23, finds the president’s overall job rating has dipped slightly in the last two weeks as fighting in Iraq winds down. Bush’s current rating is 65 percent, down from 71 percent in early April and 66 percent shortly after the war commenced (March 25-26). The president’s wartime ratings failed to reach the level of his post-9/11 rally when ratings over 80 percent were the norm for six months.

Compared to polling conducted earlier this month, President Bush’s approval rating among Republicans holds steady at 94 percent, but loses ground with Democrats (from 45 percent to 38 percent) and women (from 67 percent to 58 percent).

The president receives higher marks on Iraq, with 71 percent saying they approve of his handling of the situation. Other Bush administration officials receive high marks as well — Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a 67 percent approval rating, and Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Tommy Franks both receive the tremendously high approval ratings of 82 percent.

Beyond the job rating, another signal the wartime bounce may be short lived is President Bush’s re-elect numbers, which have also dipped. Today, 47 percent say if the 2004 election were held today they would vote to re-elect Bush and 31 percent for the Democratic candidate. That is a small decline from polling conducted in early April, when 51 percent said they would vote for Bush and 26 percent favored the Democrat.

When asked which issue will matter most in their vote, respondents clearly choose the economy over Iraq. More than six times as many voters say the candidate’s position on the economy and taxes will matter most in deciding their vote for president and Congress, as say the candidate’s position on war with Iraq will be most important (65 percent to 10 percent). Fifteen percent say Iraq and the economy will be equal factors in their vote.

Despite the economy being the more important factor, the candidate’s position on war with Iraq will be a factor in voters’ decision making. A majority (55 percent) says they will be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq, and 20 percent say more likely (14 percent say it will make no difference to their vote if a candidate opposed the war).

As might be expected, those who say the war with Iraq will be the most important factor in their vote, are much more likely to vote to re-elect President Bush if the election were held today, while those who say the candidate’s position on the economy is most important are more evenly divided between re-electing Bush and supporting the Democratic candidate.

2004 Election
Most Important Factor to Your Vote
  War Economy
Re-elect Bush 71% 38%
For Democrat 16 39
Not sure 12 23

Today, most Americans (76 percent) support the United States having taken military action in Iraq and 20 percent oppose it. These results represent a decline from those seen in recent surveys — earlier this month support for the war was at 81 percent. In addition, 64 percent say going to war with Iraq was “worth it,” while 25 percent disagree.

Even as support for the military action remains high, the poll shows Americans think that today the economy and jobs should take priority over terrorism and homeland security. When choosing between only those two issues, almost twice as many respondents say economic issues should be the government’s priority right now (55 percent economy/jobs and 28 percent terrorism/homeland security). There are major partisan differences here, with 71 percent of Democrats saying the economy should be the priority, compared to 36 percent of Republicans.

The number of Americans who think it is likely that another major terrorist attack will happen in the near future currently stands at its lowest level since the 2001 attacks. Two-thirds of Americans think another attack is somewhat or very likely, down from 75 percent one month ago and 81 percent in February. Opinion is divided on why no new attacks have happened — just over one third (35 percent) credit government security measures, but 44 percent think it is because terrorists are still making plans for additional attacks.

And while a large majority (84 percent) is either somewhat or very concerned about terrorist attacks, an overwhelming majority (93 percent) is concerned about the nation’s economy. More than four in 10 are concerned about losing their job, and half of respondents say they are trying to reduce household spending because of concerns about the nation’s economy.

"It is interesting to look at Americans’ attitudes toward tax cuts in this context," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "While Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about the economy, only 18 percent support the president's full $726 billion tax cut. Thirty-five percent support something smaller, while fully 29 percent want no tax cut at all. The president seems to be betting his re-election chances on an economic policy of which many Americans are skeptical."

Many Americans think the end of the fighting in Iraq will be good for the country’s economy. Over half (59 percent) think the war’s conclusion will help the economy, and 20 percent think it will hurt the economy. These numbers are almost a mirror image of those seen in polling prior to the war, when half said the U.S. going to war with Iraq would hurt the economy and a third said the war would help.

Beyond Rebuilding Iraq, Watching Syria

Given his strikingly high job approval rating, it should not be a surprise that Americans trust Gen. Franks more than U.S. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix to lead weapons inspections in Iraq. A majority (57 percent) trusts Franks more, 19 percent favor Blix and nine percent say “both.”

In an attempt to interpret Gen. Tommy Franks statement that U.S. troops would be in Iraq “until there is a free government,” over half of the public (56 percent) think troops will be there for two years or less, 17 percent say three to five years, 12 percent say more than five years, and a skeptical two percent volunteer the troops will be there “forever.”

If there is evidence of Syria harboring Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders, a plurality (47 percent) of Americans supports U.S. military action against that country (41 percent would oppose). Support for action rises to 61 percent if it is found that Syria is supporting terrorist groups (28 percent would oppose).

Even so, only 10 percent think Syria poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States today. Over half (54 percent) say North Korea represents the greatest threat, 10 percent say Iraq and six percent say Iran.

Polling was conducted by telephone April 22-23, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
22-23 Apr 03 65% 25 10
8-9 Apr 03 71% 20 9
25-26 Mar 03 66% 24 10
11-12 Mar 03 60% 32 8
25-26 Feb 03 55% 33 12

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing handling the situation with Iraq?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
22-23 Apr 03 71% 22 7
8-9 Apr 03 75% 19 6
25-26 Mar 03 69% 23 8
11-12 Feb 03 50% 38 12

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Rumsfeld is doing as secretary of defense?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
22-23 Apr 03 67% 19 14
25-26 Mar 03 71% 16 13
29-30 Jan 03 58% 20 22
8-9 Sep 02 63% 17 20
30-31 Jan 02 77% 9 14
12-13 Dec 01 78% 6 16
28-29 Nov 01 80% 4 16
14-15 Nov 01 78% 5 17
17-18 Oct 01 75% 7 18

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Colin Powell is doing as secretary of state?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
22-23 Apr 03 82% 11 7
29-30 Jan 03 77% 10 13
8-9 Sep 02 80% 9 11
16-17 Apr 02 82% 7 11
17-18 Oct 01 87% 5 8

5. Do you approve or disapprove of the job General Tommy Franks is doing as U.S. military commander in Iraq?

  Approve Disapprove (Don’t know)
22-23 Apr 03 82% 6 12

6. What do you think should be the higher priority for the federal government right now? (ROTATE)

1. The economy and jobs 55%
2. Terrorism and Homeland Security 28
3. (Other) 8
4. (None/Not sure) 9

7. If the 2004 presidential election were held today, do you think you would be more likely to vote (to re-elect President Bush) or (for the Democratic candidate)? (ROTATE)

SCALE: 1. Re-elect Bush 2. Vote for Democrat 3. (Depends on Democrat/too soon to say) 4. (Not sure/Undecided)

  Re-elect Bush Vote for Dem (Depends) (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 47% 31 16 6
8-9 Apr 03 51% 26 15 8
25-26 Feb 03 42% 38 10 10
19-20 Nov 02 44% 21 27 8
9-10 Jan 02 49% 21 14 16

8. In the next election, which one of the following do you think will matter most in deciding your votes for President and Congress? The candidate's:

1. Position on the war with Iraq, or 10%
2. Position on the economy and taxes? 65
3. (Both equal) 15
4. (Neither) 2
5. (Not sure) 8

9. In the next election, do you think you will be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq?

1. More likely 20%
2. Less likely 55
3. (No difference) 14
4. (Not sure) 11

10. - 14. How concerned are you about each of the following?
SCALE: 1. Very concerned 2. Somewhat concerned 3. Not very concerned
4. Not at all concerned 5. (Not sure) 6. (Already lost job)

              • The federal deficit

  Vry Smwt Ntvy Not (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 42% 40 11 5 2

              • The nation's economy

  Vry Smwt Ntvy Not (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 61% 32 4 2 1
29-30 Jan 03 66% 27 5 2 -
3-4 Dec 02 50% 36 9 4 1
22-23 Oct 02 LV 58% 32 7 2 1

              • Terrorist attacks

  Vry Smwt Ntvy Not (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 44% 40 12 3 1
29-30 Jan 03 62% 29 7 2 -
3-4 Dec 02 40% 40 14 4 2
22-23 Oct 02 LV 53% 35 8 3 1

              • The stock market

  Vry Smwt Ntvy Not (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 31% 41 13 12 3
29-30 Jan 03 42% 35 11 9 3
3-4 Dec 02 35% 36 13 12 4
22-23 Oct 02 LV 42% 33 14 7 4

              • Losing your job

  Vry Smwt Ntvy Not (NS) (Already lost job)
22-23 Apr 03 28% 14 13 35 7 3

15. All things considered, do you think the United States going to war with Iraq has been worth it or not?

1. Yes 64%
2. No 25
3. (Not Sure) 11

16. Do you think the conclusion of the war in Iraq will help or hurt the U.S. economy? Is that (help/hurt) the economy a lot or a little?

  ---- Help ---- ---- Hurt ---      
  TOT Lot Lttl TOT Lttl Lot (No diff) (Mixed/both) (NS)
22-23
Apr 03
59% 31 28 20 8 12 5 3 13

(for reference) If the United States goes to war with Iraq, do you think it will help or hurt the U.S. economy? Is that (help/hurt) the economy a lot or a little?

  ---- Help ---- ---- Hurt ---    
  TOT Lot Lttl TOT Lttl Lot (No diff) (Mixed/both) (NS)
11-12
Mar 03
33% 15 18 51 18 33 3 4 9
11-12
Feb 03
34% 16 18 48 19 29 3 6 9
8-9
Oct 02
46% 21 25 39 19 20 3 5 7

17. Have you personally tried to reduce your household and personal spending because of concern about the economy?

  Yes No (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 50% 49 1
3-4 Oct 01* 32% 67 1
14-15 Mar 01 37% 61 2
7-8 Feb 01 39% 58 3

*Oct 2001 and earlier: "... concern about a possible recession or job loss?"

18. Some Congressional lawmakers have proposed reducing President Bush’s tax cut; some have suggested a $550 billion dollar cut and others only a $350 billion dollar cut. If you could vote on the different tax cut proposals, do you think you would be more likely to vote for:

1. The president’s $726 billion dollar tax cut, 18%
2. The $550 billion dollar tax cut 16
3. The $350 billion dollar tax cut, 19
4. Or would you vote against any tax cut at all? 29
5. (Other amount) 1
6. (Not sure) 17

19. Do you support or oppose the United States having taken military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly (support/oppose) or only somewhat (support/oppose)?

  ---- Support ---- ---- Oppose ----  
  TOT Strngly Smwht TOT Smwht Strngly (NS)
22-23 Apr 03 76% 61 15 20 9 11 4
8-9 Apr 03* 81% 68 13 16 6 10 3
25-26 Mar 03 78% 66 12 18 8 10 4

* March 25-26 and April 8-9, 2003, "Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to disarm...?"

20. U.S. Commander General Tommy Franks has said that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq "until there is a free government." How long do you think that means U.S. troops will be in Iraq?

1. Several more months 18%
2. One to two years 38
3. Three to five years 17
4. More than five years 12
5. (Not sure) 13
6. (Vol: Forever) 2

21. – 22. How important do you think each of the following is to the successful conclusion of the U.S.-led military action in Iraq?
SCALE: 1. Very important 2. Somewhat important 3. Not very important
4. Not at all important 5. (Not sure)

  Vry Smwht Ntvy Not (NS)
Finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? 51% 29 11 6 3
Finding evidence of Saddam Hussein’s capture or death? 52% 29 10 7 2

23. – 24. Do you support or oppose military action against Syria if it is proven that:

  Support Oppose (NS)
Syria is harboring Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders? 47% 41 12
Syria is supporting terrorist groups? 61% 28 11

25. Do you favor or oppose allowing countries that opposed action against Iraq, such as France and Germany, to take a role in rebuilding Iraq?

1. Favor 43
2. Oppose 47
3. (Not sure) 10

26. Who do you trust more to take the lead in conducting weapons inspections in Iraq – (U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix) or (U.S. General Tommy Franks)? (ROTATE CHOICES)

1. Hans Blix 19%
2. Tommy Franks 57
3. (Both) 9
4. (Neither) 2
5. (Not sure) 13

27. Which one of the following countries do you think poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States? (Randomize)

1. North Korea 54%
2. Syria 10
3. Iraq 10
4. Iran 6
5. (Equal) 6
6. (None) 4
7. (Other) 1
8. (Not sure) 9

(for reference) Which of the following countries do you think poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States? (Randomize)

  17-18 Dec 02 22-23 Oct 02 LV
1. North Korea 23% 15%
2. Iraq 43 49
3. Iran 8 4
4. (Equal) 15 18
5. (None) 2 4
6. (Other) 2 4
7. (Not sure) 7 6

28. A CNN news executive recently admitted that CNN had kept quiet about stories of torture and murder in Iraq in order to continue reporting from there. The executive said atrocities were not reported, quote, "because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly... our Baghdad staff." Others have said CNN could have left Iraq and reported on the atrocities. Do you think CNN was right to stay in Iraq and keep silent or should they have left and reported what they knew?

1. Stay, keep silent 25%
2. Left, reported atrocities 58
3. (Not sure) 17

29. How likely do you think it is that another terrorist attack causing large numbers of American lives to be lost will happen in the near future?

SCALE: 1. Very likely 2. Somewhat likely 3. Not very likely 4. Not likely at all 5. (Not sure)

  Vry Smwht Ntvy Not (Not sure)
22-23 Apr 03 23% 43 24 5 5
25-26 Mar 03 29% 46 17 4 4
25-26 Feb 03 38% 43 11 3 5
29-30 Jan 03 31% 46 13 4 6
3-4 Dec 02 37% 39 13 4 7
30 Apr-1 May 02 33% 43 14 5 5
12-13 Feb 02 28% 45 18 5 4
3-4 Oct 01 33% 38 16 6 7

30. Do you think an absence of additional terrorist attacks in the United States is because the government security measures are working or because terrorist organizations are still planning what to do?

1. Security measures working 35%
2. Terrorists are planning 44
3. (Other) 9
4. (Not sure) 12