Bush Ends First Year With High Approval Ratings

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After one year in office, President Bush receives a thumbs-up from most Americans on his overall job performance, leadership skills, moral standards and judgment in a crisis.

In the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, taken after the president's first State of the Union address to the nation, Bush's job approval rating was 81 percent. While this rating is still considered extremely high, it is a few points lower than his highest rating of 88 percent in November 2001.

Here's how Bush scores on some other rating scales at the one-year mark:

— More than three-quarters of Americans, including 59 percent of Democrats, think Bush has "excellent" or "good" leadership skills.

— 81 percent rate the president positively on his judgment in a crisis, up 33 points since July.

— 78 percent give positive ratings to the president's moral standards.

— 7 in 10 Americans think Bush's ideology is "about right," while 19 percent think his positions on the issues are too conservative, and 6 percent think he's not conservative enough.

— A majority (59 percent) said the president is doing a better job than expected, one-third said he's doing about the same as expected, and five percent said worse than expected.

— 71 percent also rate Bush's knowledge of the issues as "excellent" or "good," up from 54 percent six months ago.

It's no secret that during the 2000 presidential election Bush's knowledge of the issues was often compared unfavorably with that of his Democratic opponent Al Gore. Today, that playing field seems to have leveled. Slightly more Americans would choose Bush as their "phone-a-friend" as would call Gore if expert input were needed on the "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" game show (47 percent Bush to 42 percent Gore).

"The events of September 11 are unprecedented in polling history and the way President Bush has managed to rally the country’s support is equally unprecedented," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "It will be very interesting to watch whether Bush will actually try to use the approval and credibility that he has acquired to push a domestic agenda forward or how well he can succeed. History suggests it can’t be done, but there is really no comparable example so it is hard to be too certain."

Of the three main areas President Bush focused on in his speech to the nation, Americans place stimulating the economy at the top of the priority list, above fighting war on terrorism and also slightly above strengthening homeland security. This represents a shift over the last few months when the economy had ranked well below both the war and homeland security.

Another indicator that there is continuing doubt about the state of the economy, today 37 percent believe the country is headed deeper into a recession, up from 31 percent three weeks ago. Forty-five percent think the country is on its way out of a recession.

A solid majority believes the president is balancing these priorities properly (66 percent), but about one quarter (23 percent) think Bush is spending too much time on the war and not enough on the economy and other domestic issues.

And, finally, a majority of Americans believe the St. Louis Rams will be the Super Bowl champs this year, beating the New England Patriots (52 percent pick the Rams and 24 percent the Patriots).