Public Approval for Bush Handling of Iraq Slipping

Public approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq has slipped to a new low — alongside his overall job rating — after last week's grisly deaths of four contractors in Fallujah (search), a poll says.

Still, a majority supports his decision to use military force in Iraq, says the poll released Monday.

Four in 10, or 40 percent, approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, while 53 percent disapprove. That's down from six in 10 who approved in mid-January, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (search).

Bush's overall job approval is at 43 percent, a low point for his presidency, down from 56 percent in mid-January. In the new poll, 47 percent disapproved of Bush's job performance. Bush's job approval soared to 90 percent after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and remained in the 70s for almost a year after that.

Public support for the decision to use military force in Iraq has not changed. The poll found that 57 percent think the United States made the right decision to use military force — about the same as in early February.

"People are sticking to their guns on whether this was the right decision, but they're beginning to feel a little more wary about how long our troops are exposed to these dangers," said Andrew Kohut (search), director of the Pew Research Center. "While they think this was the right thing to do, they don't think Bush is handling it very well."

Kohut suggested the drop in Bush's overall approval rating may be caused by a combination of domestic and overseas concerns. Public interest in high gas prices rose to 58 percent who said they were following the story very closely, compared with 47 percent who felt that way in mid- March.

"He's got bad news out of Iraq, interest in gasoline prices is soaring," Kohut said. He added that the effect of last Friday's report of more than 300,000 new jobs may not be evident in polls yet.

The poll of 790 adults was taken Thursday through Sunday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Half of those polled, 50 percent, said the United States should keep troops in Iraq until a stable government is formed there, while 44 percent said the U.S. should bring troops home as soon as possible. In January, 63 percent said the United States should keep troops in Iraq until there is a stable government.