NEW YORK – Today more Americans disapprove than approve of the job performances of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (search), according to a new FOX News poll. In addition, as many people think radical Muslims are "deeply committed to winning" in the war on terrorism as think the United States is.
The new national poll finds 40 percent of Americans today approve and 51 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president. This is a new low for the president's approval rating — though down only 1 point from last month's low of 41 percent approval.
As has been the case for much of his presidency, Bush's approval rating shows a huge partisan gap; however, this is the first time of his presidency that approval among Republicans has dropped below 80 percent.
Today, 75 percent of Republicans approve and 15 percent disapprove, and 11 percent of Democrats approve and 83 percent disapprove. For independents, 34 percent approve and 57 percent disapprove. Bush's average approval rating among Republicans for the full length of his term is 90 percent; among Democrats it is 33 percent and 55 percent among independents.
The poll finds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) has the highest rating of the administration officials tested, as 50 percent approve and 26 percent disapprove of the job she's doing. This represents a 9-percentage point drop in approval since April, though it is in line with her March approval rating of 50 percent.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on October 11-12.
One way to shed light on these job ratings is to take a look at what's on the minds of Americans. People were asked to name (without the aid of a list) what topic comes up most often these days in conversations with friends and neighbors, and the items at the top of the list could be described as less than upbeat: gas prices (18 percent), the economy and jobs (13 percent), Iraq (10 percent), terrorism (8 percent), politics (7 percent) and the weather (7 percent).
"It is interesting that gas prices are what the largest number of people bring up on their own," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Gasoline is something most every American buys on a regular basis. Suburbanites, who in many states are the so-called 'swing' voters, have to buy gas — they have no choice if they want to work and eat. They are being constantly reminded of the problem facing the country, and then events like Katrina and bird flu and the continuing news from Iraq make them feel even more vulnerable. It is no surprise that in this climate the people in charge are taking a hit in their ratings."
When asked about the recent indictments of Representative Tom DeLay and investigation into investments made by Senator Bill Frist, by a 34 percent to 29 percent margin, people characterized them as "politically motivated attacks" rather than "legitimate legal actions." Not surprisingly, reaction to this question was strongly partisan. Republicans went 51 percent to 13 percent for "political," while "legitimate" was chosen by Democrats 42 percent to 23 percent.
Iraq and the War on Terrorism
In a speech last week, President Bush compared the war against terrorism to the Cold War — and Americans agree with that characterization. By 48 percent to 38 percent, people think the threat of radical Islamic terrorism today is similar to the threat posed by war with communism in the last century. Republicans are 5 percentage points more likely than Democrats to agree with Bush’s portrayal.
And which side is "more deeply committed" to winning the war on terrorism? An equal number says the United States is committed to winning as think radical Muslims are. Republicans think the United States is more committed (44 percent to 32 percent) and Democrats think radical Muslims are more committed (42 percent to 29 percent).
In addition, most Americans (73 percent) think mainstream Islamic leaders could be doing more to stop Muslim extremists from committing acts of terrorism.
Soon the Iraqi people will vote on whether to ratify a new constitution. A 60 percent majority of Americans see the new constitution as a positive step toward establishing stability in Iraq (31 percent "major" step and 29 percent "minor" step), while about a third (35 percent) think having a charter will not make any real difference in bringing stability.
Skepticism about the amount of progress being made in Iraq has increased slightly. Today, 53 percent of Americans think a lot or some progress has been made toward restoring security and government services in Iraq, down from 63 percent two years ago (October 2003).
A 53 percent majority approves of the job the government is doing to protect the United States from terrorism, down from 56 percent earlier this year and 71 percent in February 2003. Similarly, the number of Americans that think the federal government is doing enough to secure the country’s borders has declined.
Today 16 percent think the government is doing enough to secure the borders, down from 30 percent (January 2003), and 51 percent favor building a two-thousand-mile long fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.
Despite half favoring a border fence, when compared with increasing patrol agents, a plurality thinks the more effective way to prevent illegal immigration would be to add thousands of additional border patrol agents (38 percent) rather than to build a fence (23 percent). Almost one in five say neither method would be effective.
Saddam Hussein Goes on Trial
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is scheduled to go on trial before the Special Iraqi Tribunal starting October 19. Saddam is being tried for ordering a massacre of 143 people in a town north of Baghdad in 1982 and most Americans — 82 percent — think he will be found guilty. If convicted, over half (56 percent) think he should receive the death penalty while about a third think he should be sentenced to life in prison (35 percent).
Concern Over Bird Flu
The public's concern over bird flu is not matched by confidence in the government's readiness to respond to the virus. More than six in 10 Americans say they are concerned about the spread of avian or bird flu in the United States (30 percent "very" and 33 percent "somewhat" concerned), while just over a third think the government is prepared to deal with a potential outbreak (6 percent "very" and 29 percent "somewhat" prepared).
Many Americans (65 percent) think the bird flu is serious enough to merit giving the president the authority to use the military to enforce quarantines if the strain becomes widespread.
Finally, opinion is mixed on which poses the greater threat — the terrorists or the birds: 32 percent of Americans say they are more concerned about being the victim of a terrorist attack, while 29 percent are more concerned about catching the bird flu, 13 percent say both equally and 23 percent say neither concerns them.
• PDF: Click here for full poll results.