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Majority in U.S. Fears Iraq Civil War

The nation is split down the middle over whether the United States is moving ahead toward establishing a democratic government in Iraq. About half, 49 percent, say the United States is making progress on the political front, with 48 percent saying the nation and its allies are not gaining ground. Shortly after the December elections, almost two in three Americans said the country was making significant progress toward democracy.

Over the weekend, pressure mounted on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari to give up his bid for a new term, a move that would add to the political turmoil engulfing Iraq.

Although news from Iraq has not been good, the survey suggests Bush has been helped somewhat by improving perceptions of the U.S. economy. Forty-three percent believe the economy is either excellent or good, up from 35 percent four months ago. And nearly half -- 48 percent -- of the country approve of the way Bush is handling the economy, 12 points higher than in November. Still, slightly more than half (51 percent) disapprove.

Bush's standing in other areas is mixed as well. More than six in 10 disapprove of the way he handled Hurricane Katrina, a nine-point increase since early September. A growing majority (58 percent) also disapproves of the way he is dealing with the prescription drug issue. But his overall approval ratings on terrorism (52 percent), health care (38 percent), international affairs (44 percent) and ethics in government (40 percent) remain basically unchanged from recent Post-ABC polls.

Perceptions of Democrats, who have struggled to take advantage of Bush's lack of popularity, declined on several measures. In late January, Democrats held a clear advantage over Republicans -- 55 to 37 percent -- on which party could best handle the economy. In the new poll, Democrats still led, but by 49 to 40 percent.

The survey found a similar shift on Iraq. In January, Democrats had an advantage of 47 to 40 percent on which party could better handle the situation there, but the new poll found Americans evenly divided -- 42 percent on each side -- on that question.

A total of 1,000 randomly selected Americans were interviewed March 2 to 5. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus three percentage points.

Assistant polling director Claudia Deane and staff writer Dan Balz contributed to this report.

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