Poll: Springtime Politics

In a triple hit to the Republicans in Washington, Americans express growing discontent with some of George W. Bush's policies, weak support for Tom DeLay as House majority leader and broad opposition to a change in Senate rules on judicial nominations.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Views in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are most lopsided on judges: Sixty-six percent of Americans oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to approve Bush's judicial nominees, with 26 percent in favor. That would be the effect of the so-called "nuclear option" being dangled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

On DeLay, views on one level are divided: He gets an even split in job approval, 35 percent-38 percent, with many having no opinion. But given the ethics complaints against him, the public by 41 percent-32 percent says he should step down as majority leader. And among those who are closely following the ethics issue (just over a third of the public), many more -- 63 percent -- say he should quit his leadership post.

Springtime Politics
Bush on Social Security Approve Disapprove
31% 64
Senate Rules on Judicial Nominations Change Don't Change
26 66
Tom DeLay Step Down Remain
41 32

President Bush

As for Bush, his approval rating for handling Social Security has fallen to a career low, and on the economy it's a scant point away. His overall job rating, at 47 percent approval, is its lowest since August, though still within its yearlong, roughly 50-50 band. But intensity of sentiment is against him, with Americans 13 points more apt to disapprove strongly than to approve strongly of his work in office -- the biggest such gap of his career.

Bush's slide on Social Security comes in the midst of his 60-day campaign to promote revamping the system. For the first time in polls dating to 2000, a bare majority, 51 percent, opposes a stock-market option for Social Security contributions. Support for the idea, at 45 percent, has dropped by 11 points since last month, precisely as Bush has tried to sell it.

Moreover, if establishing private accounts means cutting the rate of growth in guaranteed benefits for future retirees, support plummets to 25 percent, with 70 percent opposed. And when asked whom they trust more to handle Social Security, the public picks the Democrats in Congress over Bush by 50 percent-32 percent -- another new low for Bush.

Stock Market Option for Social Security
Overall Support Oppose
45% 51
If Lower Growth in Guaranteed Benefits Support Oppose
25 70

Gasoline prices are hurting as well. Sixty-four percent of Americans say the recent rise in gas prices has caused financial hardship in their household, up seven points to tie the record in polls since 2000. (A third say the price rise is a "serious" hardship.) Bush doesn't get all the blame -- three in 10 say it's mainly his administration's fault, but a quarter mainly blame U.S. oil companies, and another quarter blame other oil-producing countries.

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