Poll: Bush Ratings Drop Slightly; Concerns About Economy and Direction of Country

The latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll shows that while President Bush’s approval ratings are still in a range his predecessors would have envied, they have declined from the historic high levels of last fall and winter.

Seventy-two percent of Americans now say they approve of Bush’s performance, while 18 percent say they disapprove. This represents a 4-point drop in the last two weeks and a 16-point drop since his high last November. The current rating, however, rivals the best ratings ever achieved by Presidents Clinton, Reagan or Bush Sr.

Looking at specific issues, 68 percent approve of Bush’s handling of foreign affairs and 25 percent disapprove. This is a drop of 11 points since January. His rating for handling terrorism has also declined from 84 percent in January to 78 percent today, and disapproval has nearly doubled from 9 percent to 16 percent.

Forty-seven percent approve his energy policy (a 2-point increase since January) but 32 percent disapprove — an increase of 5 points since January. His handling of the economy is also up—though from 59 percent in January to 64 percent today.

Concern About Country

As least part of this shift is being driven by increased public concern about the direction the country is taking. The number of people who see the country headed in the right direction has dropped from 75 percent last December to 58 percent today. The number who say the moral climate is headed in the right direction has fallen from a high 64 percent right after 9/11 to 43 percent today — almost back to the average 32 percent it has held for many years. Clearly, many Americans see the unity and sense of purpose generated by the outrage over 9/11 disappearing.

On the other hand, a sense that the economy is improving almost certainly bolsters Bush’s overall approval. As we’ve already seen his rating on the economy have improved, and 69 percent of Americans say they expect the economy to be better a year from now. However, 51 percent think the country is still in a recession and only 3 percent rate current economic conditions as excellent.

Polling was conducted by telephone April 30-May 1, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1) Considering how things are today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

2) Considering just the moral climate of the U.S. today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

3) Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

4) Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing on the following issues?

5) Do you approve or disapprove of the job the United Nations is doing?

6) Do you think the United Nations is often anti-American, sometimes anti-American, or never anti-American?

7) On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?

8) A year from now, do you think the economy will be better or worse? Is that a lot (better/worse) or only a little (better/worse)?

9) Some experts say the country's economic recession is over, while others say the country never really was in a recession. How did it feel to you and your family — the recession happened and is over, there wasn't a recession at all, or do you feel like we're still in a recession?
SCALE: 1. Recession is over 2. No recession 3. Still in a recession 4. (Not sure)

10) How likely do you think it is that the Middle East conflict will lead to Arab states withholding oil and using oil as a weapon against the United States?

11) If the Arab states use an oil embargo as a weapon against the United States, would you support or oppose cutting off all foreign aid to those countries?

12) Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?

13) In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been charges that Israeli troops may have massacred civilians in the town of Jenin. Do you believe the Israeli troops in Jenin were doing what was necessary to find terrorists or were they intentionally targeting civilians?

14) Do you think Saudi Arabia is our friend and ally in the war on terror or not?

15) Some people believe there are terrorists currently hiding in the United States. If there are terrorists, Do you think they are hiding in American Muslim communities or non-Muslim communities?

16) How likely do you think it is that another terrorist attack causing large numbers of American lives to be lost will happen in the near future?

17) Based on what you know right now, what do you think happened between Robert Blake and his wife Bonny Lee Bakley?

18) Do you think Robert Blake is receiving special treatment from law enforcement officials because he is an actor?

19) Do you think Robert Blake's trial should be shown to the public on television?