Bush, Congress in struggle for low marks from public

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The survey shows Bush's approval ratings at 35 percent and Congress' even lower, at 25 percent.

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-controlled Congress and President Bush seem locked in a perverse competition for public unfavorability, according to a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

The survey shows Bush's approval ratings at 35 percent and Congress' even lower, at 25 percent. Only 27 percent of those polled said the country is headed in the right direction, and 39 percent said they support the Iraq war, with 58 percent opposed.

While Bush's favorability ratings have remained relatively unchanged for months, Congress' support declined markedly between May and July, a dip confirmed in a poll of 1,003 people taken last week.

Asked whether they approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job after seven months of divided government, those surveyed were then prompted to volunteer a reason.

Of the 74 percent of those expressing congressional disapproval, 22 percent said lawmakers generally aren't doing their jobs. Another 20 percent cited a specific issue for their unhappiness. Twelve percent said they disapprove of Congress because lawmakers care only about themselves and their party, while 10 percent cited backstabbing and infighting.

Among those who cited an issue, the war in Iraq was mentioned most often. It was cited by 7 percent of those disapproving of Congress' performance, followed by health care, 5 percent; immigration, 2 percent and employment and wage issues, 2 percent.

The survey was taken as Congress was beginning its August recess, providing a respite from months of unsuccessfully trying to force Bush to change course in Iraq.

Democratic leaders have vowed to renew their challenge to Bush when they return to the Capitol after Labor Day. An autumn clash also looms over federal spending, and Bush has posted veto threats against bills dealing with farm programs, expansion of children's health care and energy.

"I don't think this war is going the way it should be. We're over there for nothing," said Richard Reda, 64, of Nashua, N.H., a Vietnam War veteran and self-described political independent.

"I think Congress should go over Bush's head and get these troops back here. There's got to be a way where they can override Bush to get the troops back here," he said.

Maria Guyan, a 28-year-old school secretary from Struthers, Ohio, agreed. Guyan described her politics as "lean Democrat" and said, "I just don't think they're doing enough to keep President Bush from basically going forward on whatever he wants."

She said Congress should focus most on withdrawing from Iraq and improving the nation's education system.

"We definitely need to get out of the war, and we need to basically just realize we cannot run another country in addition to our own," she said.

But Peggy Grandinetti, 69, a Republican from Florence, Ala., criticized Congress for not standing by Bush on the war.

"I just completely disagree of pulling out of Iraq. I think we ought to stay there and finish the job," said the retired medical assistant.

Richard Henson, 58, of Atlanta, Ga., was among the Democrats who said Congress has failed to address a problem with illegal immigration.

"The immigrants are running bills up," said the post office manager, citing health care and school taxes as examples. "We have to pay extra taxes to support illegal immigrants. I don't think they should benefit from our services that we're paying taxes on."

Wes Kangas, 65, a Republican and retired banker in Vancouver, Wash., expressed weariness. "They don't seem to get anything done. All they do is bicker back and forth. After a while it gets kind of old," he said.

Republicans were more likely to say Congress wasn't doing its job, 26 percent, while Democrats tended to cite a specific issue, 24 percent. Among independents, 22 percent said generally that lawmakers weren't doing their job, and 20 percent pointed to a specific issue, a list topped by the war in Iraq.

When it came to judging Bush, 70 percent of Republicans approved of his performance, with 27 percent disapproving. Democrats split 89-9 in disapproval, and 68 percent of independents disapproved.

Congress, by contrast, was held in disregard without regard to party.

Among independents, 73 percent said they disapproved of the way Congress was handling its job, with 23 percent expressing approval. Among Democrats, a striking 70 percent disapproved and 26 percent approved, while Republicans split, 74-23, in disapproval.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

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