Seven in 10 Americans would give U.N. weapons inspectors months more to pursue their arms search in Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that found growing doubts about an attack on Saddam Hussein.
The poll also found that a majority of Americans disapproved of President Bush's handling of the economy for the first time in his presidency. The number of Americans who regard the economy as healthy has not been lower in the past nine years, and majorities raised objections to the tax-cut plan Bush has proposed as a remedy.
The findings underscore twin challenges for Bush as he hits the midpoint of his term. In Tuesday's State of the Union address, Bush will try to rally flagging support for a confrontation with Iraq and convince Americans that he can restore prosperity at home.
Overall, support for Bush has dropped to levels not seen since before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with 59 percent of Americans approving of his work. That is still a comfortable level of popularity, and Bush advisers and analysts expect Americans will rally to his side if hostilities begin in Iraq. Still, Bush's overall standing, buoyed by the 71 percent who approve of his work against terrorism, masks deepening concerns about Bush's economic and foreign policies.
On the economy, Americans disapproved of the job Bush has done by 53 percent to 43 percent; that represents a 7 percentage point shift from December. Only a quarter of Americans described the economy as excellent or good, down 10 points from December.
Support for Bush's remedy for the economy, a $670 billion tax cut unveiled earlier this month, has drawn lukewarm support. Most Americans -- 61 percent -- perceive that it benefits the wealthy; 9 percent think it helps the middle class or the poor and 23 percent said it treats all equally.
-- Dana Milbank and Richard Morin