WASHINGTON – Public support for President Bush (search) has eroded to its lowest level yet, with the Iraq war dragging on, a top White House aide facing felony charges and the White House rushing to replace a failed Supreme Court nominee.
Concerned that the president has lost his footing, some Republicans have suggested Bush should shake up his staff.
A new AP-Ipsos poll found the president's approval rating was at 37 percent, compared with 39 percent a month ago. About 59 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved.
The intensity of disapproval is the strongest to date, with 42 percent now saying they "strongly disapprove" of how Bush is handling his job — twice as many as the 20 percent who said they "strongly approve."
A year after his re-election, Bush's second term has been marred by rising U.S. casualties in Iraq, a failed attempt to restructure Social Security, Hurricane Katrina missteps, rising fuel costs and his forced withdrawal of the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers (search).
In a case involving the public naming of a covert CIA operative married to an Iraq war critic, Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (search), pleaded not guilty on Thursday in federal court to charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to investigators. The case casts a continuing cloud over Cheney and keeps Bush's closest adviser, Karl Rove, in legal jeopardy.
Republicans are starting to worry about the 2006 elections and hope Bush can reverse his slide.
In the AP-Ipsos poll, nearly one in five Republicans disapproved of Bush's handling of his job, compared with nearly nine in 10 Democrats. Nearly seven in 10 independents disapproved.
Four in five Republicans still back the president.
The president has lost support from some key groups of constituents over the past year. He's dropped 16 points in his approval rating with men in that time, 18 points with people who have a high school education or less, 16 points among Southerners and 13 points among Republicans.
The poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 31-Nov. 2 among 1,006 adults nationwide. The margin on sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Congress isn't faring much better. In early October, 35 percent of poll respondents approved of the job being done on Capitol Hill, down from 44 percent in February.
In December 2004, soon after Bush's re-election, 51 percent approved of his handling of his job, while 47 disapproved, and 28 disapproved strongly.
"I'm surprised it's not even worse," GOP consultant Rich Galen said of Bush's latest poll numbers. He cited three months of unrelenting bad news that have Republicans "beginning to scratch their heads."