President George W. Bush Exits White House to Record Job Disapproval

Iraqis aren't the only ones throwing shoes: Americans remain broadly critical of U.S. involvement in Iraq, a view unaltered by security gains. And Afghanistan presents its own challenges, with broad public worries about progress and prospects alike.

On Iraq, George W. Bush's surprise trip Sunday took him to the root of his own unpopularity: Sixty-four percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war was not worth fighting, steady for two years. And in the dwindling days of his presidency, 68 percent disapprove of Bush's job performance overall.

Click here for PDF with charts and questions.

The two are inextricably linked.

Bush and the war have been unpopular for four years running, with an almost perfect correlation between the two views. While the economy's taken center stage, it's the Iraq war that's most damaged Bush over the long term.

The success of the "surge" of U.S. forces in improving security is almost an ironic twist.

Bush heralded it Sunday, and indeed 56 percent now say the United States is making "significant progress" restoring civil order in Iraq, up from 40 percent in April. (The rest may be reflecting on the ongoing, if less numerous, car-bomb attacks there.)

Even more, 65 percent, are now optimistic about Iraq's prospects in the year ahead, up 19 points from last year to a new high since 2004. Some of that stems from better ratings of security there; some, instead, from greater optimism among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents encouraged by Barack Obama's election.

In any case it's in the broader analysis, beyond the situation on the ground -- the cost in lives and dollars vs. perceived benefits -- that nearly two-thirds continue to call the war not worth fighting.

And as that view is unchanged, so is its intensity: Fifty percent feel "strongly" that the Iraq war was not worth it. Fewer than half as many, 21 percent, strongly feel the opposite -- tying the all-time low in strong support for the war.

Such views put some heat on Obama; not only do 70 percent say he should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but, among many high expectations for the incoming president, 64 percent think in fact he will end the U.S. involvement there.

As Bush Nears Exit, Public Critical of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars

Views of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, also subject to a farewell Bush visit, are at once less critical but also less optimistic.

Fifty-five percent see the war there as worth fighting, a marked contrast with Iraq, where it's 34 percent. However just 44 percent characterize U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan as successful, vs. 51 percent who say it's been unsuccessful.

That's a vast difference from early in that war: In October 2002, 70 percent called the war in Afghanistan successful.

And, as noted, optimism is in short supply, with just 49 percent optimistic about the prospects in Afghanistan in the next year, well below the level of optimism about Iraq.

Those concerns are especially significant because Americans by a 51-40 percent margin believe that success in Afghanistan is necessary if the United States is to prevail in its broader campaign against terrorism.

Those numbers are reversed in Iraq; the public by 51-42 percent says winning there is not necessary to defeat terrorism more broadly.

Nonetheless, as ratings of security in Iraq have improved, so has the sense that winning there is necessary; today's 42 percent is up from a low of 31 percent last spring.

In Iraq, as noted, the change in optimism is not just a result of progress in security. Even among those who see no such progress, 52 percent are now optimistic, up from 26 percent a year ago. Again, that's because these people are disproportionately Democrats, brightened by Obama.

Specifically, a year ago a mere 30 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independents were optimistic about Iraq; today it's 67 percent. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents meanwhile have held steady -- 71 percent optimistic about Iraq a year ago, 68 percent now.

Other views on Iraq remain highly partisan.

Seventy percent of Republicans (and 78 percent of conservative Republicans) say the war was worth fighting; just 32 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats agree.

There's partisanship on Afghanistan as well, but somewhat less so: Seventy-six percent of Republicans say that war was worth fighting; 58 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

Majority Disapprove of Bush's Job as President

As for Bush, he's now gone 47 months without majority approval of his job performance overall, a record by far in 70 years of presidential approval polls, well beyond Harry Truman's 38 months in the doghouse from 1949-52.

Thirty percent now approve of Bush's work in office, up from his low of 23 percent in October (presidents generally recover somewhat as they leave office and step away from the political fray) but still remarkably low.

Sixty-eight percent disapprove, 5 points from Bush's record 73 percent disapproval two months ago, another record in presidential approval polls.

At 6 percent, Bush's approval rating among Democrats is 1 point from his all-time low Oct. 11; he's got 30 percent approval from independents and 66 percent from Republicans, up by 12 and 11 points, respectively.

He's got one new career low this month, 45 percent approval among conservatives.

The intensity of sentiment also remains strongly against Bush.

Fifty-two percent of Americans not only disapprove of his job performance, but "strongly" disapprove. Just 12 percent strongly approve.

And Bush, who received 92 percent approval a month after 9/11, the highest on record for any president in polls since Franklin Roosevelt, has subsided to a career average 51 percent approval across his eight years in office.

Only four presidents since 1938 have averaged lower -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Truman and Jimmy Carter, at 49, 48, 47 and 46 percent career average approval, respectively.

METHODOLOGY: This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 11-14, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults, including landline and cell-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3-point error margin; click here for a detailed description of sampling error and here for a pdf version with question wording and results. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.

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