Poll Finds Democrats Favored On War

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By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As the president and Congress spar over war policy, both receive negative marks from the public for their handling of the situation in Iraq. But by a large margin, Americans trust Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. And more than six in 10 in the new poll said Congress should have the final say on when to bring the troops home.

The president has steadfastly asserted his power as commander in chief to make decisions about the war, but his posture is now viewed by majorities of Democrats, independents and even Republicans as too inflexible. Asked whether Bush is willing enough to change policies on Iraq, nearly eight in 10 Americans said no.

Since December, the percentage seeing Bush as too rigid has increased 12 points, with the most significant change among Republicans. Just after the 2006 midterm elections and the release of the 79-point plan from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, 55 percent of Republicans thought Bush was willing enough to change course in Iraq; in this poll, 55 percent of Republicans said he is not.

Bush's overall approval rating equals its all-time low in Post-ABC News polls at 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving. Fifty-two percent said they "strongly" disapprove of his job performance, the highest figure of his presidency and more than three times the 16 percent who strongly approve.

Three-quarters of Republicans approve of the way he is handling his job, but just one in 10 Democrats and three in 10 independents give him positive marks.

The war has been the single biggest drag on the president's approval ratings.

Thirty-one percent give him positive marks on handling the situation in Iraq, which is near his career low on the issue. The last time a majority approved of the president's handling of the war was in January 2004.

Even among those Americans who said they had served or had a close friend or relative who served in Iraq, 38 percent approve of Bush's handling of the conflict.

At the same time, Congress fares little better with the public on the war. Just 35 percent said they approve of the way congressional Democrats are handling the situation in Iraq, with 63 percent disapproving. Two-thirds of independents give the Democrats negative marks on the war.

The latest poll was conducted July 18 to 21 among a random sample of 1,125 adults, just after Senate Democrats failed to pass legislation that would set a timetable for the start of troop withdrawals from the war zone. The results have a three-percentage-point margin of sampling error.

Overall approval of Congress stands at 37 percent in the new poll, with the 60 percent disapproval rating equal to public dissatisfaction with the Republican-controlled Congress late last year. Congress's approval rating has declined over the past three months because self-identified Democrats have soured in their assessment.


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