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05/04/06 FOX News Poll: Bush Approval Rebounds Slightly, Staff Changes 'Window Dressing'

President Bush’s job approval rating inches up to 38 percent this week, a slight increase from last month, according to the latest FOX News Poll. A 53 percent majority of Americans disapproves of the president’s job performance. Even fewer Americans approve of the job Democrats and Republicans in Congress are doing, and over half say they are either extremely or very interested in the upcoming midterm election.

The new poll finds that President Bush has regained a bit of ground this week. Two weeks ago his approval rating hit a record low of 33 percent. His current 38 percent approval is almost identical to his 2006 average, which is 39 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove.

At the beginning of the year, 80 percent of Republicans approved of the job Bush was doing; now that’s down to 66 percent. It’s a similar story among conservatives: 68 percent approved in early January and 54 percent approve now. Today 16 percent of Democrats approve of Bush, which is about the same number as approved six months ago (13 percent).

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on May 2 and May 3.

"There has been a dispute in polling circles about whether or not to weight survey results by party identification," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "The FOX News poll is not weighted by party. We feel party identification moves around just like positions on issues and candidates.

"That being said, in the current survey, 39 percent of people responding say they think of themselves as Republicans and 37 percent as Democrats. In Fox News/Opinion Dynamics polls conducted over the last few months, an average of 39 percent of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, while only 34 percent identified as Republicans, suggesting that Republicans may be overrepresented in the current survey. This, in turn, may have had a small effect in overstating the president’s current approval ratings."

Looking at Congress, more Americans disapprove than approve of the job Democrats and Republicans are doing. Thirty-six percent approve of the job Democrats in Congress are doing and 49 percent disapprove. Republicans rate about the same: 35 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove.

The midterm Congressional election is about six months away and voter interest appears high. Just over a quarter of voters (28 percent) say they are "extremely" interested in the upcoming election and 36 percent "very" interested.

Currently Democrats are slightly more interested in the November elections than Republicans. About a third of Democrats (34 percent) say they are "extremely" interested compared to 27 percent of Republicans.

The poll shows that Democrats have small edge over Republicans on the vote question. If the congressional election were held today, 41 percent of registered voters say they would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate and 38 percent the Republican candidate. Almost one in five voters (21 percent) are undecided.

Self-identified independents are more likely to say they would vote for the Democratic candidate by 35 percent to 22 percent. Most Democrats (76 percent) and Republicans (74 percent) say they would vote for their respective party’s candidate in their district.

What issues do Americans say will be most important to their vote for Congress? Right now, there isn’t one issue that clearly outdistances the others. The economy (16 percent) and gas prices (15 percent) edge out Iraq (13 percent), immigration (12 percent), health care (11 percent), and terrorism (10 percent). The two issues that fail to make it into the double-digits are ethics in Washington (9 percent) and Social Security (7 percent).

Among Democrats, the economy (23 percent) outranks Iraq (16 percent) and gas prices (15 percent). For Republicans, the top issues are terrorism (16 percent), gas prices (15 percent) and immigration (15 percent).

On the issue of immigration, the poll asked how people felt when they saw the thousands of participants in Monday’s "A Day Without Immigrants" protests. By three-to-one Americans say it made them think the United States needs to do a better job protecting the country’s borders (63 percent) rather than that the participants should be given rights and made citizens (21 percent).

And on a related question about the recent release of a Spanish-language version of the U.S. national anthem, there is widespread agreement -- 78 percent say the anthem should only be sung in English, while 16 percent think it is okay for it to be sung in Spanish as well.

Other Washington Happenings

A majority of the public says they have been paying attention to the recent staff changes at the White House, though most discount the real impact of them.

Sixty-four percent of voters say they have been paying attention to the White House staff changes, including 26 percent who say they have been paying "a lot" and 38 percent "some, but not a lot."

More than three times as many people think the staff changes are "window dressing" (65 percent) as think the switches will make a "real difference" to the rest of President Bush’s term (21 percent). Not surprisingly, significantly more Republicans than Democrats think the staff changes will make a real difference, 29 percent to 18 percent. Still, majorities of Democrats (71 percent), independents (70 percent) and Republicans (55 percent) discount the changes as window dressing.

Finally, last week a Senate panel recommended that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, should be abolished and rebuilt. The poll finds that Americans disagree. By 58 percent to 31 percent, people say it would be more effective and efficient to fix FEMA than to replace it.

PDF: Click here for full poll results.