The country remains half red and half blue this holiday season. Harkening back to a nation divided into "red states" (Republican) and "blue states" (Democratic) during the 2000 election, voters today are split about evenly on what holiday gift they would give President George W. Bush — four more years in the White House or retirement at the ranch in Texas.

This week’s FOX News poll finds that when asked which present they would like to give Bush, 43 percent of voters say "another four years in the White House" and 47 percent say they would give him retirement to the Crawford ranch. As was the case in the last presidential election, Bush receives stronger support among men than women. Men favor giving Bush another four years by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin, while women prefer to send him back to the ranch by 51 percent to 38 percent.

Not surprisingly, over 80 percent of Republicans would give their party’s leader four more years and over 80 percent of Democrats would send him home. Independents lean more toward making Bush a one-term president, as 49 percent would give him retirement and only 35 percent say another four years.

Despite the new Medicare (search) legislation — seen as a major victory for the president — and positive reports on the nation’s economy, the poll finds that on a more traditional reelect question Bush’s numbers still remain below 50 percent. If the election were held today, 43 percent say they would be more likely to vote for Bush and 36 percent for an unnamed Democratic candidate, with 21 percent unsure, which is essentially where the numbers stood in October.

Many voters seem skeptical that there is a Democratic opponent who can send Bush packing. Less than a third of voters (29 percent) rate the current field of Democratic candidates as "strong," but almost half (48 percent) see the field as "weak," including 34 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents.

Of all the 2004 Democratic contenders, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) is identified as the candidate with the best chance of beating Bush (14 percent), followed by retired Gen. Wesley Clark (search) (seven percent), Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) (six percent), Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) (six percent) and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) (five percent). Five percent of voters think former Vice President Al Gore (search) has the best shot at ousting Bush and three percent think New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (search), even though both say they are not running, and 19 percent say "none" of the Democratic candidates can defeat Bush.

The national poll of registered voters was conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) on December 3 and 4, one week after President Bush’s Thanksgiving Day trip to Baghdad.

There is widespread endorsement of the president’s surprise trip to Baghdad, with fully 78 percent of Americans saying they approve. An overwhelming 94 percent of Republicans approve of the trip, as do 64 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of independents. In addition, 80 percent of Americans say they think the trip was the "right thing for him to do" to show support for the troops as opposed to 10 percent who think it was the "wrong thing" to do because it was too dangerous.

An even higher percentage of the public, 87 percent, think it was appropriate for the Bush administration to ask reporters traveling with the president to stay mum about the trip until after leaving Baghdad due to security concerns.

Today over half of Americans (55 percent) think the action against Iraq was the right thing for the United States to do, down three percentage points since October and 10 points since July. Republican approval for the war remains strong (82 percent), but support among both Democrats and independents, while never as strong as it is among Republicans, now appears to be waning. In September, 38 percent of Democrats thought going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do and now that number stands at 32 percent. Among independents support dropped seven points in the same time period.

The president’s overall job approval rating holds steady at 52 percent — about where it has been since late September. While the president’s approval rating may not have moved up this week, the administration may see good news in the fact that his disapproval rating is down and currently stands at 34 percent. In mid-November the president’s disapproval rating hit 41 percent, the highest negative rating he had received of his term.

"Despite the nearly even division on reelecting Bush, many in the public don't want to criticize a wartime president," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman (search). "While the trip to Iraq didn't cause many people to become favorable, it did give critics some pause as they assess it. However, as we've seen time and time again over the last few years, as an event that moved the president's rating fades, the country moves back toward its 50/50 split."

The voters' assessment of the outlook for the national economy continues to be positive, with over two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) now saying they think economic conditions will be better a year from now — up from 66 percent in April and 49 percent in March. A 57 percent majority thinks their personal financial situation will be better next year as well.

Are the Bush administration’s 2003 tax cuts helping to improve the economy? The "opinion-is-divided" theme continues, as 42 percent say they think the tax cuts are helping and 45 percent disagree. Republicans think the tax cuts are helping (68 percent to 21 percent), but Democrats are almost three times as likely to say the cuts are not helping to revive the economy (64 percent to 22 percent).

Polling was conducted by telephone December 3-4, 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)
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
23-24 Sep 03 50% 40 10
9-10 Sep 03 58% 33 9

2. In your everyday conversations with friends and neighbors, what topic would you say comes up most often these days? (OPEN ENDED)

Dec 3-4
03
Sep 23-24
03
1 Jul-30 Jun
03
Apr 8-9
03
Jan 29-30
03
Economy 21% 17% 26% 5% 19%
Iraq/
Saddam Hussein
18 14 12 65 42
Work/Jobs/
Employment
7 7 5 3 5
Politics/
Political issues
6 10 6 2 3
9/11 /Terrorism/
War on Terror
6 9 7 9 3
Family issues 6 7 5 3 5
Sports 4 4 4 1 2
Weather 3 5 3 2 2
Local issues 3 4 3 1 1
Health Care 3 1 3 - 2
Education/
Schools
2 3 2 1 3
Religion/Bible 2 2 2 1 1
Current events/
World news
2 2 1 - 1
Recreation 2 - 2 na na
Taxes 1 2 2 - 1
Elderly/
Social Security
1 1 1 - -
Drugs/Crime 1 1 1 - -
TV/Entertainment 1 1 na na na
Middle East - 1 - - -
Stock market/
Finances/Money
- - 1 - 1
Other/Nothing 2 5 8 1 3
(DK/Ref) 9 4 6 6 6

3. If the 2004 presidential election were held today, do you think you would be more likely to vote (for Republican George W. Bush) or (for the Democratic candidate)? (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Vote for Bush 2. Vote for Democrat 3. (Depends on Democrat/too soon to say) 4. (Not sure/Undecided)

Vote for Bush Vote for Dem (Depends) (NS)
3-4 Dec 03 43% 36 12 9
28-29 Oct 03 44% 38 11 7
23-24 Sep 03* 39% 39 15 7
15-16 Jul 03 42% 31 19 8
17-18 Jun 03 51% 30 11 8
22-23 Apr 03 47% 31 16 6

*September 2003 and previous: ". . . to vote to re-elect President Bush"

4. How would you rate the current field of Democratic presidential candidates -- would you say it is a strong field of candidates or a weak field of candidates? Is that very (strong/weak) or only somewhat (strong/weak)?
SCALE: 1. Very strong 2. Somewhat strong 3. Somewhat weak 4. Very weak 5. (Not sure)

----- Strong ----- ------ Weak ------  
TOT Very Smwt TOT Smwt Very (NS)
3-4 Dec 03 29% 10 19 48 25 23 23
     Dem 42% 14 28 34 24 10 24
     Rep 17% 6 11 67 27 40 16
     Ind 32% 10 22 45 28 17 23

 

----- Strong ----- ------ Weak ------  
TOT Very Smwt TOT Smwt Very (NS)
29-30 Jul 03 24% 6 18 53 29 24 23
     Dem 35% 8 27 44 30 14 22
     Rep 16% 5 11 63 29 34 21
     Ind 24% 5 19 51 27 24 26

5. Which Democratic candidate do you think has the best chance of beating George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election? (RANDOMIZE)

All Dem
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean 14% 16%
Retired General Wesley Clark 7 9
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry 6 8
Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt 6 4
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman 5 4
(Al Gore) 5 8
(Hillary Clinton) 3 5
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards 2 2
New York Rev. Al Sharpton 1 1
Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun - *
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich - 1
(Ralph Nader) 1 -
(Other) 1 1
(None) 19 7
(Not sure) 30 33

6. A year from now, do you think the economy will be better or worse? Is that a lot (better/worse) or only a little (better/worse)?

---- Better ---- ---- Worse ----    
TOT Lot Little TOT Little Lot (Not sure) (No change)
3-4 Dec 03 68% 28 40 18 10 8 8 6
8-9 Apr 03 66% 27 39 18 10 8 11 5
11-12 Mar 03 49% 16 33 34 17 17 14 3
14-15 Jan 03 59% 15 44 26 14 12 10 5
8-9 Oct 02 LV 64% 17 47 22 14 8 9 5
9-10 Jul 02 65% 17 48 21 14 7 9 5

7. A year from now, do you think your personal financial situation will be better or worse?

Better Worse (Same) (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 03 57% 14 24 5
23-24 Sep 03 53% 14 26 7
30 Jun-1 Jul 03 56% 12 27 5
8-9 Apr 03 63% 9 22 6
23-24 Jul 02 57% 19 21 3
22-23 Aug 01 49% 19 24 8

8. Do you think the 2003 tax cuts are helping to revive the economy, or not?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes 42% 22% 68% 37%
2. No 45 64 21 51
3. (Not sure) 13 14 11 12

9. Do you think going to war with Iraq was the right thing for the United States to do or the wrong thing? Do you feel that strongly or only somewhat?
SCALE: 1. Strongly right 2. Somewhat right 3. Somewhat wrong 4. Strongly wrong 5. (Not sure)

---- Right ---- ----- Wrong -----  
TOT Strngly Smwt TOT Smwt Strngly (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 03 55% 38 17 38% 13 25 7
14-15 Oct 03 58% 39 19 35% 12 23 7
9-10 Sep 03 62% 43 19 33% 12 21 5
29-30 Jul 03 65% 42 23 27% 10 17 8
30 Jun-1 Jul 03 65% 43 22 27% 9 18 8

10. Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving Day trip to visit the troops in Baghdad?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Approve 78% 64% 94% 76%
2. Disapprove 14 26 3 13
3. (Not sure) 8 10 3 11

11. Do you think President Bush going to Baghdad over Thanksgiving was the right thing for him to do to show support for the troops or the wrong thing for him to do because it was too dangerous?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Right thing to do 80% 67% 94% 76%
2. Wrong thing to do 10 18 2 11
3. (Mixed) 7 10 4 8
4. (Not sure) 3 5 1 5

12. If news reporters had been told about the president’s trip to Baghdad in advance, do you think the information would have been kept secret to protect the president or would it have been leaked despite the risk that might have posed to the president’s safety?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Kept secret 16% 15% 16% 12%
2. Leaked 78 76 80 85
3. (Not sure) 6 9 4 4

13. Given security and safety concerns, do you think it was appropriate for the Bush administration to ask news reporters to wait until the president had left Baghdad before reporting on the trip, or not?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes 87% 80% 95% 88%
2. No 6 10 3 5
3. (Not sure) 7 11 2 6

14. Based on what you’ve read or heard about the Medicare bill that was recently passed by Congress, do you think it will be good for senior citizens or bad for senior citizens?

1. Good 30%
2. Bad 31
3. (Mixed) 14
4. (Not sure) 25

15. Do you think people should have the choice to invest privately up to five percent of their Social Security contributions or not?

Yes No (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 03 67% 23 10
14-15 May 02* 66% 25 9

*Wording: ". . . to invest privately a small amount of . . ."

16. If you had the choice today, do you think you would invest privately a small percentage of your own Social Security money?

Would Would not (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 03 57% 34 9
14-15 May 02* 58% 34 8

*Wording: ". . . privately invest some of. . ."

17. Do you expect to receive Social Security benefits after you retire?

Yes No (Already
receive)
(Not sure)
3-4 Dec 03 60% 17 20 3
     Age under 30 58% 36 1 5
     30-45 64% 30 1 5
     46-55 75% 18 4 3
     56-64 73% 6 17 4
     Over 65 32% 3 65 -
14-15 May 02 63% 16 18 3

18. If you could give President Bush one of the following holiday gifts, which would it be?

All Men Women Dem Rep Ind
1. Another four years
    in the White House
43% 48% 38% 11% 81% 35%
2. Retirement to his
    ranch in Crawford, Texas
47 44 51 83 12 49
3. (Not sure) 10 8 11 6 7 16