04/20/06 FOX Poll: Gloomy Economic Views; Bush Approval at New Low

More Americans disapprove than approve of how George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Congress are doing their jobs, while a majority approves of Condoleezza Rice. President Bush’s approval hits a record low of 33 percent this week, clearly damaged by sinking support among Republicans.

Opinions are sharply divided on whether Rumsfeld should resign as secretary of defense. In addition, views on the economy are glum; most Americans rate the current economy negatively, and twice as many say it feels like the economy is getting worse rather than better. These are just some of the findings of the latest FOX News national poll.

President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).

Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.

"It seems clear that many Republicans, while they may still like and support George Bush, are growing uneasy with what may happen to their candidates — and the policies they support — in the November elections," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman.

"This unease about the direction of the party is now showing up as an erosion of the near unanimous support Bush has enjoyed among the Republican rank-and-file for the last six years."

In a follow-up question the poll asked respondents to explain why they approve or disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Of the 33 percent who approve, 52 percent say "he is doing a good job" in general, 21 percent cite Bush’s handling of the war on terrorism and 18 percent mention their agreement with him on the issues. The only other reason to receive double-digit mentions is the president’s honesty and character.

Overall, 57 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing, and the most frequently mentioned reason is Iraq (48 percent). The other top reasons include generally "doing a bad job" (24 percent), disagreement on issues (22 percent) and the economy/jobs (17 percent).

Eleven percent of Americans say they disapprove because they "don’t like him" and 10 percent because he "doesn’t care about average people."

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on April 18 and April 19.

The other end of Pennsylvania Avenue fares even worse: 25 percent of the public approves of the job Congress is doing and 52 percent disapprove. About a year ago, 40 percent approved and 36 percent disapproved (29-30 March 2005). Furthermore, a 54 percent majority agrees that this is a "do nothing" Congress, including 56 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s job approval rating also hit a record low this week with 35 percent of Americans saying they approve, down from 40 percent in December and 44 percent last April.

On a more upbeat note for the GOP, a 60 percent majority approves of the job Secretary of State Rice is doing — far more than the one in five who disapprove (22 percent). These ratings are consistent with previous results.

Rumsfeld: Should He Stay or Go?

Americans are split evenly on whether Rumsfeld should stay on as secretary of defense. Four in 10 Americans say they think Rumsfeld should resign, but 41 percent disagrees and one in five is unsure. Partisanship is clear on this issue: 57 percent of Democrats think Rumsfeld should resign, while 67 percent of Republicans think he should stay.

Earlier this week President Bush repeated his support saying, "What’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as secretary of defense."

Recently a handful of retired generals criticized Rumsfeld’s leadership and called for his resignation. A majority of Americans say they are OK with this public criticism: 57 percent think it is appropriate for retired military generals to openly criticize Rumsfeld during wartime. Four in 10 think it is inappropriate.

Rating the Economy

Americans are more than twice as likely to rate the nation’s economy negatively as positively. Nearly 3 in 10 rate economic conditions as either "excellent" (6 percent) or "good" 22 percent, while the widespread consensus is gloomier: about 4 in 10 say the economy is "only fair" (42 percent) and another 30 percent say it is in "poor" shape.

Like on most issues these days, there are clear partisan differences on the economy. Among Republicans, views are evenly divided between a positive rating (50 percent excellent/good) and a negative rating (49 percent only fair/poor). In contrast, almost all Democrats rate the condition of the economy negatively (85 percent only fair/poor).

As can happen on many issues, Americans view their personal situation differently — more positively in this case — than they see things for the nation overall.

Even though ratings are almost 20 points more positive on the individual level than for the country, people are still slightly more negative than positive. Nearly half of the public says their personal financial situation is "excellent" (10 percent) or "good" (36 percent), while just over half rate their situation as "only fair" (35 percent) or "poor" (17 percent).

"It is worth noting that perceptions of how well people are doing are tied directly to their income," comments Gorman. "Most of those making over $75,000 per year are positive, while most of those making less than $50,000 are negative. Those between $50,000 and $75,000 are just about evenly split."

In addition, even though economic indicators conclude the nation’s economy has been growing for some time, the new poll shows this is at odds with the public’s perception. By 56 percent to 21 percent, Americans say it feels to them and their families that the economy is getting worse rather than better.

The poll asked respondents to explain why they feel the economy is getting better/worse, without being aided by a read list. Those who think it seems like things are getting better point to reasons such as "more jobs" (49 percent), "pay increases" (23 percent), a "general sense" (14 percent) and the stock market (12 percent). One in 10 say they think the economy is getting better because stores are busier and it seems like business is improving.

Far and away the top reason for those saying it feels like the economy is getting worse is gas prices. Six in 10 cite rising gas prices, outdistancing other frequently mentioned reasons such as the lack of jobs (28 percent) and grocery prices (15 percent).

When read a list of factors that could play a part in assessing the economy, large majorities of Americans say the availability of good jobs (89 percent) and gas prices (83 percent) are either "extremely" or "very" important factors in deciding whether the economy is in good shape.

By three-to-one the public says the recent news reports they have been hearing have been more bad news stories (54 percent) than good news on the economy (17 percent). Does this factor in to the decision-making process on how the economy is doing?

Overall, nearly half (48 percent) say their views on economic conditions are based more on their own personal experiences and one in five (21 percent) say more on news reports.

Finally, when asked to look ahead 10 years, a 58 percent majority of Americans say they are optimistic about the future of the United States, down from 73 percent in October 2003.

PDF: Click here for full poll results.