NEW YORK – A new FOX News poll finds that President George W. Bush is holding onto the gains he made earlier in the month as his approval rating comes in at 41 percent. Most Americans support the government program to track possible terrorist funding, one of the few areas where majorities of both parties agree. In addition, the public thinks people who leak classified information -- as well as news organizations that publish it -- should face criminal charges. On Iraq, more than half want U.S. troops to stay and finish the job.
These are just some of the findings of the new national telephone poll of 900 registered voters conducted from June 27 to June 28 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation for FOX News. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
President Bush’s job rating is holding ground as 41 percent of Americans say they approve of his performance and 50 percent disapprove. Earlier this month, soon after terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike, Bush hit 40 percent for the first time in months. His current approval rating is 8 percentage points higher than his record low of 33 percent earlier this year (April 18-19).
The partisan divide is evident throughout many of the poll results, including the president’s job rating: most Republicans (79 percent) approve of Bush’s performance and most Democrats disapprove (83 percent).
“While Bush has gained a little support across the board, most of his gain from the low point has come by reinforcing his base,” comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. “His political advisers have always been most concerned with the Republican/conservative base and you see a wide range of initiatives both substantive and symbolic designed to rally and motivate that base.”
The poll shows there is strong support for the Treasury Department program tracking financial transactions in search of terrorist funding. Seven of 10 Americans support the program, including majorities of Republicans (83 percent), independents (67 percent) and Democrats (58 percent).
The Bush administration asked the New York Times not to publish information about the secret program, but the newspaper went ahead because it felt it was in the public interest to do so. By publishing the story, a 60 percent majority thinks the Times did more to help terrorist groups than the public (27 percent).
More Americans blame government employees for leaking the classified info (51 percent) than the media for reporting it (28 percent).
Furthermore, almost all (87 percent) think the employees who leaked should face criminal charges and two-thirds think the news organizations should. Even so, only 43 percent are willing to call what the media did treason, and almost as many think the organizations that published the information were operating for the public good (37 percent).
Overall, by 40 percent to 25 percent, Americans trust news reporters more to tell the truth than government officials, with 26 percent saying “neither.” These results are in line with polling conducted last summer: 38 percent said they trust news reporters more, 18 percent government officials and 33 percent neither (June 2005).
Looking toward the midterm election, a plurality says it would be better for the country if Democrats (39 percent) rather than Republicans (33 percent) win control of Congress. One in five voters says “no difference” (20 percent).
The economy and Iraq top the list of issues that voters say will be most important to deciding their vote for Congress. When asked what would be better for the nation’s economy, by a slim 8-percentage point margin of voters say Democrats winning Congress. On making the country safer from terrorism, the Republicans have the edge by 11 points.
A 38 percent plurality say they trust Republicans to do a better job handling Iraq, but almost as many say Democrats (34 percent).
All in all, how would things change if Democrats gain control of Congress? Voters are more likely to say it would lead to a change for the better (43 percent) than for the worse (23 percent), with almost one in three saying there would be no real change.
Not surprisingly, most Democrats (79 percent) think it would be an improvement; many Republicans (56 percent) say it would lead to a change for the worse, though several (30 percent) say there would be no real change.
What would be the Democrats’ focus if they controlled Congress: 39 percent say making problems for President Bush and 38 percent say solving America’s problems.
Views are divided on setting a timetable for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, though overall Americans want troops to stay and finish the job.
On the key issue of setting a timetable, 44 percent think it does more harm than good because it tells the enemy when it can take over, while 38 percent say it does more good because it makes Iraq get prepared to stand on its own.
A majority says they want U.S. troops to “stay in Iraq and finish the job” (55 percent) rather than “come home now” (38 percent). These results are essentially unchanged from last fall: 55 percent “finish the job” and 36 percent “come home” (November 2005).
Fully 83 percent of Republicans want troops to stay and finish the job; 62 percent of Democrats feel the opposite and want troops to come home now.
Majorities of Republicans (54 percent) and Democrats (61 percent) agree that the Republican position on Iraq can be characterized as “stay and pay.” There is more disagreement on how the Democratic position is being characterized, as most Republicans (70 percent) think it can be called “cut and run,” but most Democrats (68 percent) dispute that label.
North Korea Missile Threat
Earlier this month, North Korea made indications it was preparing to test launch a long-range ballistic missile. Though some Americans think North Korea is bluffing (33 percent), many think there is a real threat it will go forward with the launch (56 percent). And if it does, nearly half think the United States should respond by blowing up the missile (51 percent) rather than with diplomacy (35 percent).
The terrorist group Al Qaeda (33 percent) is seen as a greater threat to the United States than North Korea (22 percent) and Iran (17 percent), though one in five says “all” (19 percent).
When Al Qaeda is out of the mix, Americans put Iran (39 percent) slightly ahead of North Korea (32 percent) as the country that poses the greatest danger to the United States right now.
Which country’s leader is crazier? North Korea’s Kim Jong Il (31 percent) edges out Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (26 percent), with one in four saying “both” (27 percent).
The United States Supreme Court released a decision today relating to the rights of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The public’s feelings are mixed about holding detainees there, as 43 percent think it is fair and 44 percent unfair to hold those accused of being Al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay without charging them. These results are quite different from four years ago, when a sizable 68 percent majority said it was fair to hold accused terrorists without charging them -- four times as many as said it was unfair (17 percent) (July 2002).
Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) think Gitmo prisoners have provided information that has made the United States safer, while just over a third disagrees (36 percent).