Despite those concerns, Bush's job-approval ratings lifted a bit. The TIME poll of 1,002 adult Americans, conducted August 22-24, put Bush's rating at 38%, up three percentage points from a TIME poll Aug. 9-10. His handling of the economy rated approval by 38% as well, up five points, and his handling of Iraq edged up to 34%, a four-point improvement. Congress fared worse, with only 30% approving of its performance. Asked how they would vote if elections for Congress were held today, 51% of the registered voters among the respondents said they'd pick a Democrat, while 40% would vote Republican. The numbers include voters who say they lean toward those parties.
In spite of the seeming Democratic edge, the poll suggests a shift in perceptions about which party can better tackle the terrorist threat 41% of Americans say they feel the Republicans would do a better job of handling that, while 33% feel the Democrats could do better. That's a reversal from five months ago, when 44% picked the Democratic Party and 33% chose the GOP.
Americans seemed to be in a pessimistic mood, at least relatively so: 66% said the country is in "deep and serious trouble today," vs. 30% who said the problems we face are "no worse than at any other time in recent years." Only 5% said things are going "very well" in the country, vs. 47% who said "fairly well," 30% "fairly badly" and 17% "very badly." The No. 1 concern was the economy and jobs (20%), followed by terrorism (13%), the war in Iraq (11%) and high energy prices (8%).