President George W. Bush's ratings are up and views on the national economy are more positive today, which isn't a bad way for the president to start a new year — not to mention a presidential election year.

In this week's FOX News poll, a majority of the public approves of the job Bush is doing as president and he easily bests several Democratic contenders in election matchups. The poll of registered voters, conducted January 7-8 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, finds that 58 percent of Americans approve of Bush's overall job performance, up from 52 percent last month.

The president's higher rating is helped by increased approval among women, which is up eight points and now stands at 55 percent. While approval among Republicans remains constant at 86 percent, approval among Democrats is up five points from last month and currently stands at 29 percent.

Handling terrorism is where the president receives his strongest approval rating. The poll finds a 10 percentage point jump on Bush's handling of terrorism with 67 percent of Americans today saying they approve, up from 57 percent in November. On managing the economy, 50 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove — a reversal of the president's November ratings (43 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved).

Given the mid-December capture of former Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein, it's not surprising that the president's largest gain is on his handling of Iraq. Currently 57 percent approve of how Bush is handling the situation with Iraq, up 11 points since November.

Similar results are seen when voters are asked to rate the Bush administration's policies. A 55 percent majority says they are satisfied with the administration's policies (25 percent "strongly" and 30 percent "somewhat") and about a third are dissatisfied (20 percent "strongly" and 14 percent "somewhat"). 

When asked to take into consideration all three years of the presidential term so far, about half (49 percent) say Bush has done a "good job," 28 percent say an "okay job" and 21 percent say he has done a "bad job" as president.

More people feel positively toward the president as a person than rate him positively on his job performance. Almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say they "like" Bush, including 37 percent that "strongly" like him. One in five say they dislike Bush (12 percent "strongly" dislike and eight percent "somewhat"). Another 11 percent say they are "neutral."

More than twice as many Americans rate the nation's economy positively today as did this time last year. About a third (34 percent) say the economy is either in excellent or good condition now, compared to only 13 percent in January 2003. Just under half (48 percent) say jobs are available in their area, while 43 percent say there are not many or no jobs in their community.

"The past month has clearly been a positive one for the president," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "The two pivotal issues — the economy and Iraq — are both viewed as being better handled than they were a month ago. However, there are almost 10 more months before the election and we've seen that this president's ratings react quite a bit to current events. The question for both Bush and the Democrats is whether the positive trends will be sustained as 2004 progresses."

The economy is mentioned most often as the topic voters say they would like to hear President Bush discuss in his State of the Union Address later this month, followed by the topics of Iraq and terrorism.

Fully 70 percent of Americans say they feel optimistic about how things are going in the country right now. Majorities of all age groups and income levels are optimistic, as are majorities of men and women. Republicans (86 percent) are somewhat more optimistic than independents (73 percent), and considerably more so than Democrats (51 percent).

President Bush easily tops each of the potential Democratic presidential contenders he is matched against in this poll. If the election were held today, voters would support Bush over Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt by 26 points, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry by 22 points, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean by 21 points, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark by 20 points.

When asked whether Bush or Clark would do a better job handling a foreign crisis such as Iraq, 50 percent say Bush and 30 percent say Clark. When matched against Dean on handling a foreign crisis, 57 percent would trust Bush to do a better job and 25 percent say Dean.

In the Democratic presidential primary question, Dean receives a plurality of support (20 percent) among self-identified Democrats, followed by Clark (13 percent), Lieberman (eight percent), Gephardt (seven percent), and Kerry (seven percent).

Two-thirds of Democrats today (67 percent) say they would prefer their party's presidential nominee be a candidate who opposed the Bush tax cuts, up from 55 percent six months ago. And on Iraq, 65 percent of Democrats now say they would prefer a candidate who opposed going to war, up from 56 percent in June.

On endorsements, less than half of Democrats (44 percent) say an endorsement by former Vice President Al Gore would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, 14 percent say it would make them more likely to vote against a candidate, and 36 percent say a Gore endorsement would make no difference to their vote.

Slightly over half (53 percent) of Democrats say an endorsement by former President Bill Clinton would make them more inclined to vote for a candidate, 15 percent say against and 29 percent say Clinton's endorsement would make no difference. Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley have both made formal endorsements of Democratic hopeful Dean.

Homeland Security and Saddam

In December, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert level to "high" or code orange. Almost all Americans (90 percent) say they went about life as usual after the threat level was increased. Only nine percent say they made changes in their day-to-day life in response to the increased alert.

In addition, a small minority of the public reports being inconvenienced by the code orange. Fully 88 percent say they have not been personally inconvenienced, but 12 percent say they have. Those living in the West are twice as likely as those in the South to say they have been inconvenienced.

Most Americans (86 percent) approve of the Department of Homeland Security's new program of digitally fingerprinting foreign visitors entering the United States. The current program exempts visitors from many European nations, but 83 percent of Americans would favor fingerprinting all non-citizens entering the country.

Are we safer with Saddam behind bars? The public is unclear, with 46 percent saying the capture of Saddam made the United States safer and 46 percent disagreeing. Opinion among men and women is divided, while Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to think the country is safer (62 percent and 31 percent respectively).

Americans think it is unlikely Saddam will answer the question on the top of everybody's list. About a quarter (26 percent) think Saddam will provide interrogators with information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but two-thirds (67 percent) think it is unlikely he will.

Polling was conducted by telephone January 7-8, 2004 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)
7-8 Jan 04 58% 31 11
3-4 Dec 03 52% 34 14
18-19 Nov 03 52% 41 7
28-29 Oct 03 53% 37 10
14-15 Oct 03 52% 37 11

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling the issue of terrorism?

Approve Disapprove (Don't
know)
7-8 Jan 04 67% 24 9
18-19 Nov 03 57% 34 9
9-10 Sep 03 65% 29 6
20-21 May 03 73% 19 8
3-4 Dec 02 66% 22 12

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing managing the economy?

Approve Disapprove (Don’t
know)
7-8 Jan 04 50% 42 8
18-19 Nov 03 43% 51 6
9-10 Sep 03 47% 46 7
9-10 Sep 03 47% 46 7
15-16 Jul 03 47% 44 9

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

Approve Disapprove (Don’t
know)
7-8 Jan 04 57% 35 8
18-19 Nov 03 46% 48 6
9-10 Sep 03 54% 38 8
29-30 Jul 03 58% 32 10
15-16 Jul 03 57% 35 8

5. How do you feel about George W. Bush as a person — would you say you like him or dislike him? Is that strongly or only somewhat?
SCALE: 1. Strongly like 2. Somewhat like 3. Somewhat dislike 4. Strongly dislike 5. (Neutral) 6. (Not sure)

—— Like —— —— Dislike ——    
TOT Strngly Swht TOT Swht Strngly (Ntrl) (NS)
7-8 Jan 04 63% 37 26 20 8 12 11 6

6. How do you feel about the Bush administration’s policies — would you say you are satisfied or dissatisfied with them? Is that strongly or only somewhat?
SCALE: 1. Strongly satisfied 2. Somewhat satisfied 3. Somewhat dissatisfied 4. Strongly dissatisfied 5. (Neutral) 6. (Not sure)

Satisfied Dissatisfied    
TOT Strngly Swht TOT Swht Strngly (Ntrl) (NS)
7-8 Jan 04 55% 25 30 34 14 20 7 4

7. Taking into account the events of the last three years, how would you rate the job George W. Bush has done as president?

1. Good job 49%
2. Okay job 28
3. Bad job 21
4. (Not sure) 2

8. Later this month President Bush will give his State of the Union Address to the nation. What topic are you most interested in hearing the president talk about during his speech? (OPEN ENDED)

The economy/jobs 35%
Iraq 17
Terrorism 10
Health Care 4
Medicare/
prescription Drugs
4
Education 3
Immigration/
illegal aliens
2
Social Security 2
Taxes 2
Budget Deficit 1
Other 5
None 6
Not sure 9

9. On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?
SCALE: 1. Excellent 2. Good 3. Only fair 4. Poor 5. (Not sure)

Exclnt Good Fair Poor (NS)
7-8 Jan 04 3% 31 42 22 2
18-19 Nov 03 2% 26 44 26 2
23-24 Sep 03 1% 17 42 39 1
12-13 Aug 03 1% 15 40 43 1
3-4 Jun 03 1% 19 48 31 1

10. How would you rate the availability of jobs in your community? Are there a lot, some, not many, or no jobs available in your area?

1. A lot 12%
2. Some 36
3. Not many 34
4. None at all 9
5. (Not sure) 9

11. How do you feel about how things are going in the United States right now — optimistic or pessimistic? Is that strongly or only somewhat?
SCALE: 1. Strongly optimistic 2. Somewhat optimistic 3. Somewhat pessimistic 4. Strongly pessimistic 5. (Not sure)

—— Optimistic —— —— Pessimistic ——  
TOT Strngly Swht TOT Swht Strngly (NS)
7-8 Jan 04 70% 29 41 24 15 9 6

12. I'm going to read you a list of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in the next election. If a 2004 Democratic primary for president were held today, which ONE of the following candidates would you most likely vote for? (If not sure: Well, to whom do you lean at this time?) (RANDOMIZE)

                Summary Among Democrats (n=319)

Dean 20%
Clark 13
Lieberman 8
Kerry 7
Gephardt 7
Braun 4
Edwards 4
Kucinich 3
Sharpton 2
(Else/Other) 5
(Not sure) 25
(Would not vote) 2

                Retired Gen. Wesley Clark

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 13% 9%
18-19 Nov 03 14 10
14-15 Oct 03 13 11
23-24 Sep 03 20 16

                Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 8% 11%
18-19 Nov 03 10 13
14-15 Oct 03 11 9
23-24 Sep 03 9 8
9-10 Sep 03 16 17

                Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 7% 4%
18-19 Nov 03 8 8
14-15 Oct 03 10 7
23-24 Sep 03 10 8
9-10 Sep 03 17 11

                Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 7% 6%
18-19 Nov 03 9 6
14-15 Oct 03 9 6
23-24 Sep 03 9 6
9-10 Sep 03 6 9

                North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 4% 5%
18-19 Nov 03 3 3
14-15 Oct 03 3 2
23-24 Sep 03 5 5
9-10 Sep 03 4 3

                Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 4% -%
18-19 Nov 03 3 3
14-15 Oct 03 3 1
23-24 Sep 03 2 3
9-10 Sep 03 3 1

                Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 20% 14%
18-19 Nov 03 18 16
14-15 Oct 03 12 10
23-24 Sep 03 13 9
9-10 Sep 03 14 11

                New York Minister Al Sharpton

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 2% 1%
18-19 Nov 03 2 1
14-15 Oct 03 2 3
23-24 Sep 03 3 3
9-10 Sep 03 2 2

                Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 3% 1%
18-19 Nov 03 2 3
14-15 Oct 03 2 1
23-24 Sep 03 1 1
9-10 Sep 03 2 1

                (Someone else/Other)

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 5% 7%
18-19 Nov 03 6 2
14-15 Oct 03 - -
23-24 Sep 03 5 5
9-10 Sep 03 7 7

                (Not sure)

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 25% 33%
18-19 Nov 03 22 25
14-15 Oct 03 27 33
23-24 Sep 03 19 25
9-10 Sep 03 24 31

                (Would not vote)

Dem Ind
7-8 Jan 04 2% 10%
18-19 Nov 03 3 10
14-15 Oct 03 8 17
23-24 Sep 03 2 8
9-10 Sep 03 2 6

13. Regardless of how you might vote, who do you think is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee? (OPEN ENDED)

                Howard Dean

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 36% 37% 32% 38%
9-10 Sep 03 14 15 14 14

                Wesley Clark

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 7 9 6 6
9-10 Sep 03 1 2 1 -

                Joe Lieberman

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 4 4 5 3
9-10 Sep 03 5 6 5 4

                Hillary Clinton

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 3 5 3 1
9-10 Sep 03 5 4 5 8

                Dick Gephardt

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 3 2 2 4
9-10 Sep 03 4 3 4 4

                John Kerry

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 3 4 3 2
9-10 Sep 03 10 11 9 10

                Al Gore

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 2 3 3 1
9-10 Sep 03 3 4 3 4

                Carol Moseley Braun

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 - 1 - 1
9-10 Sep 03 1 1 - 1

                John Edwards

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 - 1 - 1
9-10 Sep 03 1 1 1 1

                Dennis Kucinich

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 - - - -
9-10 Sep 03 - - - -

                Al Sharpton

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 - 1 - -
9-10 Sep 03 - - - -

                Bob Graham

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 - - - -
9-10 Sep 03 1 1 - -

                Someone else/Other

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 2 1 2 4
9-10 Sep 03 2 1 2 2

                Not sure

All Dem Rep Ind
7-8 Jan 04 40 32 44 39
9-10 Sep 03 53 51 56 52

14. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)(Push for decision)
1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Howard Dean 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Dean (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
7-8 Jan 04 54% 33 10 3
18-19 Nov 03 49% 36 12 3
29-30 Jul 03 55% 27 15 3

15. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)(Push for decision) 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Dick Gephardt 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Gephardt (NS/
Other)
(Would
not vote)
7-8 Jan 04 56% 30 12 2
18-19 Nov 03 49% 36 12 3
29-30 Jul 03 52% 33 12 3
6-7 May 03 56% 30 12 2

16. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)(Push for decision) 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Wesley Clark 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Clark (NS/
Other)
(Would
not vote)
7-8 Jan 04 52% 32 14 2
18-19 Nov 03 49% 36 13 2
23-24 Sep 03 46% 37 17* na

*(Neither/Not sure)

17. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order) 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat John Kerry 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Kerry (NS/
Other)
(Would
not vote)
7-8 Jan 04 54% 32 12 2
29-30 Jul 03 54% 35 8 3
6-7 May 03 58% 29 11 2
17-18 Dec 02 57% 29 12 2

18. Who do you think would do a better job on managing the country’s economy — George W. Bush or Howard Dean? (ROTATE)

Bush Dean (NS/Other)
7-8 Jan 04 50% 30 20
18-19 Nov 03 43% 38 19

19. The next time the United States is faced with a foreign crisis such as Iraq, which candidate would you trust to do a better job handling the situation — George W. Bush or Howard Dean? (ROTATE)

1. George W. Bush 57%
2. Howard Dean 25
3. (Not sure/Other) 18

20. What about if the choices were George W. Bush and Wesley Clark? The next time the United States is faced with a foreign crisis such as Iraq, which candidate would you trust to do a better job handling the situation?

1. George W. Bush 50%
2. Wesley Clark 30
3. (Not sure/Other) 20

21. In the long run, who do you think would do a better job of keeping the country safe from terrorism — George W. Bush or Howard Dean? (ROTATE)

Bush Dean (NS/Other)
7-8 Jan 04 57% 23 20
18-19 Nov 03 51% 29 20

23. – 24. (Asked of Democrats and Independents only, n=516) I'm going to read you some positions on issues and I'd like you to tell me which position you would prefer the Democratic nominee for president to hold.
SCALE: 1. The candidate favored going to war with Iraq or 2. The candidate opposed going to war with Iraq 3. (Not sure)

                Going to War With Iraq

  Favored Opposed (NS)
7-8 Jan 04      
                 Ind & Dem 32% 53 15
                 Dem only 24% 65 11
17-18 Jun 03 (n=495)*      
                 Ind & Dem 38% 47 15
                 Dem only 30% 56 14

*Wording “. . .favored the war with Iraq”

SCALE: 1. The candidate supported the Bush tax cuts and would leave them in place 2. The candidate opposed the Bush tax cuts and would seek to repeal many of the cuts 3. (Not sure)

                Going to War With Iraq

Supported Opposed (NS)
7-8 Jan 04      
                 Ind & Dem 28% 55 17
                 Dem only 20% 67 13
17-18 Jun 03 (n=495)      
                 Ind & Dem 37% 48 15
                 Dem only 32% 55 13

25. (Asked of Democrats and Independents only, n=516) Which characteristic would you prefer to see in the Democratic nominee for president?

1. A candidate who makes aggressive
attacks on President Bush and his policies or
7%
2. A candidate who focuses on explaining
what hisor her own policies would be?
87
3. (Not sure) 6

(ASK ALL)

26. If a candidate has been endorsed by former Vice President Al Gore, are you more likely to vote for or against that candidate?
SCALE: 1. For 2. Against 3. (No difference) 4. (Not sure)

For Against (No
difference)
(NS)
7-8 Jan 04 22% 38 34 6
Dem 44% 14 36 6

27. If a candidate has been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, are you more likely to vote for or against that candidate?

For Against (No
difference)
(NS)
7-8 Jan 04 26% 43 27 4
Dem 53% 15 29 3

28. If a candidate for public office has been endorsed by labor unions, are you more likely to vote for the candidate or against the candidate?
SCALE: 1. For 2. Against 3. (No difference) 4. (Not sure)

For Against (No
difference)
(NS)
7-8 Jan 04 29% 27 33 11
Dem 48% 14 28 10
22 Oct 99 30% 33 27 10
2 July 98 28% 36 27 9

29. Which of the following comes closer to your opinion:

1. The news media are giving Democratic
presidential candidate Howard Dean too much
attention and making him the nominee, or
35%
2. Dean is making himself the nominee and
the media are forced to give him a lot of attention?
31
3. (Not sure) 34

30. Overall, do you think the capture of Saddam Hussein has made the United States safer or not?

1. Safer 46%
2. No safer 46
3. (Not sure) 8

31. How likely do you think it is that Saddam Hussein will provide U.S. interrogators with information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

1. Very likely 7%
2. Somewhat likely 19
3. Not very likely 27
4. Not at all likely 40
5. (Not sure) 7

32. In December, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert code to orange, signifying a “high” threat risk. After the terror alert level was increased, did you or members of your family go about day-to-day life as usual or did you make some changes in response to the alert?
SCALE: 1. Went about life as usual 2. Made some changes 3. (Not sure)

Life as usual Some
changes
(Not sure)
7-8 Jan 04 90% 9 1
11-12 Feb 03* 90% 9 1

*Wording: “After the terror alert level was increased last week, did you. . .”

33. Have you been personally inconvenienced in any way by the terror alert system being raised to code orange?

1. Yes 12%
2. No/(Not sure) 88

34. Do you approve or disapprove of the Department of Homeland Security’s new program of digitally scanning fingerprints and taking photographs of foreigners entering the United States from most countries?

1. Approve 86%
2. Disapprove 9
3. (Not sure) 5

35. Would you favor or oppose requiring fingerprinting ALL non-citizens entering the United States?

1. Favor 83%
2. Oppose 11
3. (Not sure) 6

36. Which one of the following candidates do you think is most likely to be elected to the office of president of the United States first?

1. A female candidate 31%
2. An African American candidate 14
3. A Jewish candidate 12
4. A Hispanic candidate 4
5. (All equal) 16
6. (None) 7
7. (Not sure) 16