Latest CBS News/New York Times Poll Shows Problems For Bush Over Iraq and Domestic Issues
The latest CBS News/New York Times poll of over a thousand voters taken through last Thursday shows that Bush’s approval rating has fallen back to 50%, with national security still his strongest factor towards reelection, yet with weak spots on domestic issues and Iraq. This is a timely poll, given today's car bombing outside the Coalition Headquarters, the worst bombing in Iraq since Saddam's "capture."
Moreover, the support Mr. Bush gained after the capture of Saddam Hussein last month has largely dissipated. His overall approval rating now stands at 50 percent, comparable to President Bill Clinton's 47 percent in January 1996. Mr. Bush remains a polarizing figure in a sharply divided country, with 9 in 10 Republicans approving of his performance, and only 1 in 4 of the Democrats.
Fewer than one in five people said their tax burden had been eased by Mr. Bush, who has made tax cuts the centerpiece of his economic program. His latest domestic initiatives, unveiled in the run-up to the State of the Union message on Tuesday, got only a lukewarm response, with 58 percent saying that building a permanent space station on the Moon was not worth the risks and costs.
The survey found the nation still in an anxious state economically, despite the recent rebound in economic growth and the improvement in the stock market. The economy, jobs and unemployment led the list of most important issues for voters, with health care and education not far behind.
One of the president's signature accomplishments on the domestic front — the passage of a Medicare overhaul with new coverage for prescription drugs — has yet to register much with the voters, the poll suggests. Twenty-nine percent said they thought the administration had made "a lot" or "some" progress on prescription drug relief. Fifty-four percent said the administration had made little or no progress.
As for Iraq, Bush continues to be vulnerable here according to the poll.
Despite the widespread support for Mr. Bush's handling of terrorism, there are also doubts about his handling of foreign affairs in general. Forty-seven percent in the survey said they approved of the way he was handling foreign affairs, while 45 percent disapproved.
Moreover, half the public said the result of the war in Iraq was not worth the loss of life and other costs. Forty-nine percent said Mr. Bush was too quick to get the United States involved in a war there, while 35 percent said the timing had been about right and 13 percent said the administration was too slow to act.
The public is also divided over Mr. Bush's current handling of the situation in Iraq, with 48 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving. In addition, 6 in 10 of those polled said the Bush administration had been hiding information about the existence of weapons of mass destruction; only 27 percent said the administration had told the public most of what it knows.
This poll reflects the fact that despite the best efforts of Bush’s spinmeisters in the White House and their willing accomplices in the media, Bush faces problems with the electorate because of economic uncertainties, concerns over his domestic priorities and lack of achievements, and more importantly the continuing problems in Iraq.
At a time when Bush and Rove want to get as many troops out of Iraq by November as possible to claim victory, voters will continue to see evidence that our troops are continuing to face daily threats and an increasing death toll. Yesterday’s roadside bombings and now today’s suicide car bombing outside Coalition headquarters that has killed at least 20, including two Defense Department employees, at a time when Paul Bremer was trying to convince the UN to come back, will only add to voters’ concerns about Bush’s decision making in going in and our ability to get out.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom by the Beltway types that Iraq and WMDs may go away as an issue this November, the poll shows that a candidate who still hammers the WMD deception issue and makes the point that Iraq was a war of choice, not of national security necessity, will register with voters. With daily headlines and losses continuing to pile up, this will be a bad issue for Bush even as he tries to get out per the Rovian plan.
One last question: what will happen to these numbers should there be another domestic terrorist strike and gasoline prices go up as we talked about yesterday?