Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Approval slips for Bush and Congress


Approval slips for Bush and Congress
By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush's approval ratings for handling the economy, Iraq and Social Security have fallen to the lowest levels of his White House tenure, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. (Related item: Poll results: http://www.usatoday.com/news/polls/tables/live/2005-05-23-poll.htm )

Congress doesn't fare much better. Solid majorities of those surveyed say congressional leaders in both parties, heading toward a Senate showdown today over the confirmation of judicial nominees, are "acting like spoiled children," not responsible adults.

The survey shows a public that is more focused on the debate over stem cell research and more concerned about the price of gas than the dispute over Democrats filibustering Bush's judicial picks that has transfixed Washington.

On the filibuster debate, by 48%-40% those surveyed said they favor the Democrats over the Republicans. But they seem to see merit in the arguments by both sides. A 53% majority say the filibuster — the ability of at least 41 senators to continue debate and delay a vote — should be preserved. But 69% want the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.

By 47%-36%, those polled say the country would be better off if Democrats controlled Congress. That's the best showing for Democrats since Republicans won control in 1994.

In the survey sample, 36% called themselves Democrats, 29% Republicans. Including those who "lean" toward a party, 51% were Democrats, 40% Republicans.

Bush's overall job approval rating was 46%, down 4 percentage points since early May but higher than the 45% low he held in March. On specific issues, 40% approved of the job Bush is doing on handling Iraq and the economy; 33% approved of him on Social Security.

By a record 57%-40%, respondents say they disagree with Bush on the issues that matter most to them. The proportion who say Bush has "the personality and leadership qualities a president should have" sank to 52%, his lowest ever.

"There's no good news," says Andrew Kohut, director of the non-partisan Pew Research Center. "Iraq is not going particularly well. The public is not pleased with the economy. And I think both his failures with respect to Social Security and even (Terri) Schiavo got him off on the wrong foot this year with the public." Bush and congressional Republicans sought to intervene in March in the dispute over treatment for Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg says Bush is losing ground on defining issues: "On Social Security, he's moved from being the person offering interesting ideas to the guy who wants to cut benefits."