POLL: Health Spending Trumps in Guns vs. Butter Debate

Lifted to power in a protest of Bush's Iraq policies, the Democrats seem now to be sharing disapproval for what remains an unpopular war. Fifty-five percent of Americans say the Democrats in Congress haven't gone far enough to oppose the war; among Democrats themselves, 79 percent say so.

In another measure of dissatisfaction with the status quo, 82 percent say Congress has accomplished little or nothing this year. Still, by a 2-1 ratio, it's Bush and the Republicans, not the Democrats leading Congress, who get most of the blame.

The War

Some measures of opposition to the war have eased slightly, albeit not enough to change the basic equation. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say the war was not worth fighting — down from a high of 66 percent in April, but still a majority, as it's been continuously since December 2004. Fifty-four percent say the United States should withdraw even without restoring civil order; that's inched back from 59 percent in July, though it, too, remains a majority, a line it first crossed in January.

Contrary to last month's report by Gen. David Petraeus, relatively few Americans, 27 percent, think the surge in U.S. forces has improved the situation in Iraq; that's no different than it was shortly before he testified to Congress.

Discontent with the war remains complicated by the quandary of what to do about it. Bush, on Petraeus' advice, has called for reducing the deployment of U.S. forces to pre-surge levels; in this poll a combined total of 52 percent instead either say that's the right pace (38 percent), or it should be slower, while 43 percent say troop reductions should occur more quickly.

An ABC/Post poll last month, however, found 55 percent support a spring deadline for withdrawing all U.S. forces. It seems safe to say the public's conflicted about Iraq: unhappy to be there, unsure how and when to leave.

Approvals

There's less conflict about Bush's handling of the war. Just 30 percent approve of his work on Iraq, two points from his career low, while 68 percent disapprove. Fifty-seven percent disapprove strongly.

Even on the broader U.S. campaign against terrorism, just 40 percent approve of Bush's performance, a new low. Other approval ratings range from 27 percent on the deficit and 30 percent on health care to 37 percent on the economy — none remotely good.

Bush is relatively weak on some of these even in his own party: Just 49 percent of Republicans approve of his handling of health care and 52 percent on the deficit. By contrast, on the war in Iraq — sharply driven by partisanship — 65 percent of Republicans approve of Bush's performance, while 92 percent of Democrats disapprove.

Party preferences tell a similar story. Americans trust the Democratic Party over the Republican Party to handle the situation in Iraq by a record 15-point margin, 49 percent to 34 percent; the Democrats lead by wider margins on health care (preferred over the Republicans by 56 percent to 26 percent), the deficit (52 percent to 29 percent) and the economy (51 percent to 33 percent). Trust to handle terrorism is roughly even, at 41 percent to 40 percent — just about what it was in October 2006, shortly before the Democrats took control of Congress.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 27-30, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,114 adults including an oversample of blacks, for a total of 212 black respondents. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF with charts and data table.

Click here for more ABC News polls.

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