Bush approval down, better among registered voters

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: June 29, 2004

America's war on terrorism has regained the No. 1 spot in the public consciousness, a new poll shows, but renewed interest in events in the Middle East does not seem to be helping President Bush's standing with the public.

The incumbent's job-approval rating was at 46 percent in the latest national survey of 1007 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University. Forty-seven percent said they disapprove of Bush's performance in office, while 7 percent were undecided.

As in other recent polls taken by the Scripps Survey Research Center, a majority of Americans say they don't want Bush to be re-elected. But the president's level of support is slightly stronger among registered and active voters than it is among the general public.

When asked what was the most important issue facing the nation, 35 percent of respondents answered "the war on terrorism" or "peace in the Middle East." This is a significant jump over the 24 percent who picked these issues in a Scripps Howard poll conducted in February.

Concerns over the economy, which consistently led previous polls, dropped to second place with 18 percent, down from 27 percent four months ago.

Normally, this would be good news for Bush since he consistently has been rated as better able to deal with national security issues than were Democratic leaders. But the news coming from Iraq has been exceptionally negative in recent months as escalating attacks on U.S. troops and the prisoner abuse scandal dominated the headlines.

Support for the war itself continues to dwindle.

Participants in the poll were asked, "Despite everything that has happened, do you think the United States has done a good thing or a bad thing by sending our military to occupy Iraq?" Forty-six percent said commitment of troops was a good thing, 43 percent said it was a bad thing and 11 percent were undecided or gave other responses such as "it's too soon to tell" or "something had to be done, but it's been handled the wrong way."

Fifty-two percent said commitment of troops was "a good thing" in February's survey.

The survey also asked: "Would you like to see President Bush be re-elected to a second term, or is it time for someone new?" Forty percent said they would like to see the incumbent re-elected while 52 percent said it's time for a change in leadership; 8 percent were undecided.

The issue is more closely divided among registered voters who regularly participate in major elections. Forty-five percent of these active voters say they want Bush to be re-elected, while 50 percent say they want someone new; 5 percent were undecided.

The latest survey was conducted June 20-28 among 1,007 adult residents living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This and earlier polls were funded by a grant from the Scripps Foundation.

The margin of error is 4 percentage points for most of the questions, but rises to about 5 percent when focusing on the 522 registered voters who say they always cast ballots in major elections.