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President's Poll Rating Falls to a New Low

The approval rating for President Bush, shown at a San Diego ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, dropped seven points since January.
The approval rating for President Bush, shown at a San Diego ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, dropped seven points since January. (By Jeff Mitchell -- Reuters)

Independents were similarly dissatisfied with Democratic leaders for not challenging the president over the war and other issues, with six in 10 saying Democrats have been too meek.

Public attitudes toward the war have not changed significantly since the first of the year, the poll found. Slightly more than four in 10 -- 42 percent -- approved of the job Bush is doing in Iraq; 57 percent disapproved, unchanged in recent months. Slightly more than half -- 53 percent -- said the war was not worth it, while 46 percent said it was, identical to the results of a Post-ABC poll two months ago. By a 51 percent to 38 percent ratio, the public said the United States is winning the war, despite mounting casualties and insurgent attacks.

A majority (54 percent) continued to say the United States should keep military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there; 44 percent said U.S. forces should be withdrawn. Six in 10 opposed announcing a timetable for withdrawal. Only about one in eight -- 13 percent -- said U.S. forces should be withdrawn immediately.

Michael Strickland, 31, a factory worker who lives in Pine Bluff, Ark., said he opposed the war before the United States invaded in March 2003: " It's just another Vietnam. . . . No matter what we do over there, they are going to kill us."

His solution: withdraw -- but not immediately. "Don't tell them when we're going to leave. . . . But do it in a reasonable time frame -- six months to a year. Even if we leave, it can't get any worse over there."

These ambivalent feelings about the war and Bush's policies in Iraq are felt even by many of his supporters who continue to back the U.S. invasion.

"I have really mixed feelings, like probably the whole country has," said Wayne Almlie, 51, a warehouse worker and part-time pastor in Des Moines, who said he approves of Bush's overall performance. "We need to stay the course. I really think we do. The whole region would disintegrate if we would pull out. . . . I'd hate to have to be making those decision."

Despite escalating bloodshed, the struggles to approve a draft constitution and the well-covered antiwar protests led by Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, the survey found little evidence that antiwar sentiment has increased the past two months.

The survey also found that Sheehan, who has been protesting the war outside Bush's ranch near Crawford, Tex., has become the most visible symbol of the antiwar movement. Fully three in four Americans have heard or read about her.

Sheehan met last year with Bush at an event for military families and has been seeking another meeting with him. Slightly more than half of the country -- 52 percent -- said Bush should meet her again; 46 percent said he should not. Fifty-three percent supported what she is doing and 42 percent opposed.

The poll found that opposition to the war has deepened among Democrats. Two months ago, two in three Democrats said they strongly disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq; that has risen to three in four. Over that same period, the proportion of Democrats who described themselves as "angry" over Bush's Iraq policies has risen from 36 percent to 46 percent.

The poll found that Sheehan's activities may have helped increase support for the war among Bush supporters. Although eight in 10 Americans said Sheehan's protests have not changed their attitudes toward the war, one in 10 said she has made them more likely to support the conflict -- the same proportion that said she has made them less likely to support the war.

A total of 1,006 randomly selected adults were interviewed by telephone Aug. 25-28. The margin of sampling error for the results is plus or minus three percentage points.

Assistant polling director Claudia Deane contributed to this report.

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Deadlines and Withdrawal
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