Poll: President's Year-End Job Approval

Americans have grown more sour on the situation in Iraq, driving down the president's ratings on the war and on terrorism more broadly, and fostering majority support for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Fifty-six percent, a new high, now say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and fewer than half think the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order there. Most call Iraq unready for the election scheduled for late next month, doubt the integrity of the election process and lack confidence it'll produce a stable government.

There are political implications: Fifty-seven percent disapprove of President Bush's work on the situation, a point shy of his worst rating on Iraq, set during the Abu Ghraib scandal last spring. His approval for handling terrorism overall -- his best issue -- has dropped to 53 percent, near its low of 50 percent in June.

As for Rumsfeld, just 35 percent approve of his work -- half of what it was just before the fall of Baghdad -- and 52 percent say Bush should replace him.

No Honeymoon

Most broadly, this ABC News/Washington Post poll shows no second honeymoon for Bush after his re-election last month. The nation is as divided as ever, with Americans split, 48 percent to 49 percent, on his overall job performance -- about where it's been for most of 2004. Bush has 55 percent job approval in the "red" states he won -- compared with 40 percent, 15 points lower, in the "blue" states won by Democrat John Kerry.

President Bush's Job Approval
One Year Ago5938
Two Years Ago6632

Comparisons to past year-end polls underscore the difficulties confronting Bush in his second term. His job approval rating is 11 points lower than a year ago, and 18 points lower than two years ago. His rating on terrorism is 17 points lower than at this time last year. There's been a 17-point drop in the number of Americans who say the Iraq war was worth fighting, and a 10-point rise in the number who call U.S. casualties "unacceptable."

Handling terrorism was the issue that won Bush re-election, and it remains his best suit, albeit much less strongly than in the past. On pressing domestic issues he's weaker: Fewer than half, 46 percent, approve of his work on the economy; 38 percent on Social Security, on which he's promised bold initiatives; and 37 percent on health care. These have been essentially steady the past year.

President Bush's Performance
Now2004 Average
Job Overall48-49%50-47
Social Security38-5239-53
Health Care37-5638-55

Intensity of sentiment is another problem for Bush: Just 27 percent approve "strongly" of his work overall, the fewest since Sept. 11, 2001, while more, 38 percent, strongly disapprove. That's the biggest margin toward strong disapproval (+11) of his presidency.


Dissatisfaction with Iraq has not produced a demand for withdrawal. Apparently ascribing to the break-it/bought-it philosophy, most Americans, 58 percent, continue to say the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until order is restored there, even if that means further U.S. casualties.

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