Confidence in Bush slips on domestic, foreign policy

Friday, October 3, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Doubts are growing about President Bush's ability to deal with international crises and the economy, says a poll released Thursday night.

The CBS-New York Times poll found that 45 percent say they have confidence in Bush's ability on international crises and 50 percent said they do not. On the economy, four in 10 said they have confidence in his ability to handle it, while 56 percent did not.

His overall job approval rate was at 51 percent, with 42 percent disapproving. His job approval has ranged from the high 40s to mid-50s in several recent polls as approval on his handling of Iraq and foreign policy has dropped below 50 percent.

People were evenly divided on whether they would probably vote for Bush or the Democratic candidate in next year's election. But by a 50-35 margin they expect Bush to win re-election.

A majority of people, 63 percent, said Bush has strong qualities of leadership and more than half, 53 percent, think he has more honest and integrity than most people in public life.

The public's view of Bush as a strong, honest leader who has done well in the fight against terror tends to anchor his overall support, despite sagging ratings on economy, Iraq and other issues.

Asked if the Bush administration policies have made the country safer from terrorism, 60 percent said they have made the country safer, while 36 percent thought his policies have either made the country less safe or had no effect.

But public anxiety about the cost of the Iraq war is growing.

Two-thirds said the war with Iraq has cost the United States more than they expected. And almost that many, 61 percent, said the United States should not spend $87 billion for the military and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.

About the same number said they do not think the Bush administration has a clear plan in Iraq.

And those doubts also show up on questions about domestic policy.

Almost six in 10, 56 percent, said they think Bush does not have the same priorities as they do.

Six in 10 said the economy is worse today than when Bush took office. Almost nine in 10 said the current budget deficit is a serious problem with half, 50 percent, saying it is very serious.

Almost six in 10, 56 percent, said they are uneasy about Bush's approach to the nation's economy. Slightly more, 60 percent, said they think the Bush administration's policies favor the rich.

Asked whether Bush administration policies have increased or decreased jobs, 51 percent said they have decreased jobs, while 29 percent said they have had no effect.

The poll of 981 adults was taken Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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