The recent elections in Iraq and an improved economic outlook at home have shifted public support in the president's direction, lifting him from career lows in his job performance and personal ratings alike.
The president still faces significant challenges, including majority disapproval of his overall performance, substantial skepticism about the war and roughly 50-50 ratings on his personal honesty and his handling of ethics. Still, each has moved his way.
|Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.|
Overall, 47 percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll now approve of George W. Bush's work in office; 52 percent disapprove. While hardly robust, that is up from a career low 39 percent-60 percent in early November to its best in nearly six months.
The president's recent speechmaking on Iraq may have helped him. But public opinion tends to move on the basis of facts on the ground rather than political pronouncements, and the most striking change in this poll is linked to last week's successful elections in Iraq.
Perceptions of Progress in Iraq
|Establishing a democratic government||47%||65%|
|Restoring civil order||44%||60%|
Specifically, belief that the United States is making significant progress toward establishing a democratic government in Iraq has jumped dramatically, by 18 points, to 65 percent. A sense of progress in establishing civil order similarly is up, by 16 points, to 60 percent. Each is its best since these questions first were asked in the spring of 2004.
Moreover -- in a view held by majorities across party lines -- 71 percent of Americans believe the Iraqi elections have moved the United States closer to the day U.S. forces can be withdrawn. Fifty-four percent express optimism about Iraq in the year ahead, eight points more than at this time last year. And 56 percent think the United States is winning the war, a recent theme of the president's, up slightly from 51 percent in August.
Other views follow: Approval of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq is up by 10 points to its best of his second term, 46 percent. (Again, though, more still disapprove, 53 percent.) Forty-six percent now say the war was worth fighting -- still fewer than half, but up seven points. And 54 percent think the war has improved long-term U.S. security, the first majority since June -- a critical change, since this is the war's chief justification.
Even with his gains, the president faces considerable skepticism. Despite his recent speeches, culminating in Sunday night's national address, 60 percent of Americans say he has not done enough to explain the reasons the United States is in Iraq and 59 percent think the administration does not have a clear plan for handling the situation there. (This poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday.) Views on the lack of a clear plan have been steady since spring 2004; what helps the president politically is that even more -- 74 percent -- think the Democrats in Congress don't have a clear plan for Iraq, either.
On the issue of troop deployment, six in 10 continue to oppose setting a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces, given the counter-position that doing so would encourage Iraqi insurgents. Support for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, never high, is now just 12 percent. But support for decreasing the level of U.S. troops has reached a majority for the first time.