As investigations and accusations surround the White House, the latest FOX News poll finds President George W. Bush's approval rating at a record low for the second time in as many months.
Today, 36 percent of Americans approve and 53 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president. For comparison, two weeks ago 41 percent said they approved and 51 percent disapproved, and at the beginning of his second term 50 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved (January 25-26).
Until this week, Bush's approval rating had been at 40 percent or above — buoyed in large part by consistent strong support among Republicans; however, in mid-October approval among Republicans fell below 80 percent for the first time of his presidency and now sits at 72 percent.
In addition, Bush's approval rating is down by double digits among other demographic groups. Since the beginning of his second term, his approval is down 26 percentage points among independents, 16 points among women, 15 points among whites and 11 points among men.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on November 8-9.
"The key to understanding Bush's rating is not the fact that 84 percent of Democrats disapprove or that 72 percent of Republicans still approve — they’ve been polarized for a long time," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "The real problem for the president is that self-described independents now disapprove by a 58 percent to 26 percent margin. The 'rally-the-base' strategies that have worked so well for the administration are not likely to win back the independents the Republicans need to return to parity. The question is whether they can develop an approach that wins back independents."
Sentiment toward the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is also negative. Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) disapprove of the job Democrats in Congress are doing and half (50 percent) disapprove of Republicans' job performance.
It's a close call, but by 34 percent to 30 percent voters say they are more fed up with Republicans than Democrats on Capitol Hill, with a quarter (25 percent) voluntarily offering they are fed up with both parties.
Similarly, slightly more think Democrats (35 percent) rather than Republicans (30 percent) have the most ideas for solving the country’s problems, though one in five (22 percent) thinks neither is offering solutions.
Last week Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.V., used an obscure parliamentary rule that closed the Senate doors for a secret session to talk about an investigation of pre-Iraq war intelligence. A 42 percent plurality thinks the move was a "political stunt," while 30 percent think it was a "serious inquiry."
Democrats (42 percent) are more than two and a half times as likely as Republicans (16 percent) to think the matter was serious, but on the flip side almost a third of Democrats consider it a stunt (31 percent) as do a majority of Republicans (57 percent).
On the CIA leak investigation, opinion is split on what will happen to former White House staffer Lewis "Scooter" Libby. An almost equal number thinks Libby’s indictment will end with him being found guilty (22 percent) as found innocent (21 percent), but the largest group thinks it won’t come to that and a plea agreement will be reached (32 percent).
Iraq and the War on Terrorism
Almost four in 10 Americans think the United States is winning the war in Iraq: 38 percent think the U.S. is winning, 27 percent think the Iraqi insurgents are winning and 23 percent think neither side is.
Over half of Americans (55 percent) want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq and finish the job, while over one third (36 percent) think troops should come home now. There are huge partisan differences on this issue: fully 80 percent of Republicans want the troops to stay and finish the job, but that drops to 54 percent among independents and drops even further to 35 percent among Democrats.
Are we getting both sides of the story? A slim 52 percent majority thinks news coverage of Iraq focuses too much on the negative, compared to 11 percent that think the focus is too much on the positive. Almost a quarter of Americans (23 percent) think recent news reports have given a balanced description of the situation there.
The poll finds opinion is divided on how to describe the current situation in Iraq. Though 45 percent think "slow but steady progress" is being made, almost as many — 41 percent — think "bogged down" is more accurate.
Views are also split on the long-term value of the Iraq war. When asked to think five years down the road, 39 percent say the war will have been worth it, but nearly half disagree (48 percent). These results show a slight increase in pessimism since last summer when 40 percent said the war would ultimately be worth it and 43 percent said not worth it (August 2004).
Another way to assess if Iraq has been worthwhile is whether it has prevented attacks in the United States. One quarter of Americans (24 percent) think homeland security measures have prevented new Al Qaeda attacks from happening since Sept. 11, and about one in seven (16 percent) think the military action in Iraq has prevented them. Another 19 percent think it is because no new attacks were planned and 26 percent think it is a combination of factors.
Finally, even though military action continues in Iraq and the war on terrorism will presumably continue for the foreseeable future, one third of Americans say it doesn’t feel like the country is at war.
• PDF: Click here for full poll results.