TIME Poll: Doubts About Iraq Bring Doubts About Bush -- President’s 41% Approval Undercut by Iraq

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New York -- President Bush’s counter-offensive against his critics shows little sign of reversing his flagging job approval ratings. His rating on the new TIME Poll -- 41% approve - 53% disapprove – is little changed from September following Hurricane Katrina (42%-52%).

The public is split on whether Bush can recover lost ground with half (46%) saying he is likely to recover and half (49%) saying he is unlikely to recover. Three-quarters (76%) of those who disapprove of the job Bush is doing say they are “unlikely to change their mind.” 2008 ELECTION: Looking forward to the 2008 election, three-in-five (60%) surveyed by TIME say they would like the next President to be “completely different” from George W. Bush (36% would like someone similar). If the presidential election were being held today between Bush and John Kerry, it would be a dead heat again (47% Bush, 48% Kerry). Red state residents are split on whether they will be more likely to vote for a Republican (42%) or Democratic (42%) candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in their districts next year. Blue states are more in favor of the Democratic candidate (55% Democratic vs. 30% Republican).

RICE UNSCATHED: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has emerged most unscathed from recent negative events. The TIME Poll shows her approval rating is the highest in the Administration (53% approve, 21% disapprove, v. Vice President Dick Cheney 45%-32%, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 42%-35%).

IRAQ: Forty-five percent said Bush’s policies in Iraq and high energy prices had a “very negative” impact on his approval rating. Sixty percent disapprove of his handling of Iraq (38% approve). Half (50%) still think the U.S. was wrong to go to war. Americans are split on whether the President was truthful and honest (45%) or deliberately misled Americans (48%) to build the case for war. The TIME Poll also finds little change in other key indicators:

-- 3-in-5 Americans (60%) still see the country going down the wrong track; -- Negative ratings for his handling of illegal immigration (57% - 27%) and the economy (55% - 40%). -- “Red” states (responsible for Bush’s 2004 re-election) approval rating only 47% approve – 45% disapprove.

Also depressing Bush’s approval ratings:

-- the federal budget deficit (39% say “very negative” impact), -- cronyism charges (39%), -- his handling of hurricane recovery in the Gulf coast (37%), -- his handling of the economy (35%), -- the failure of his social security initiative (32%), -- the indictment of senior White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby (26% say “very negative” impact).

IMMIGRATION: Only 27% approve Bush’s handling of illegal immigration, which the President has addressed this week with his proposed “guest worker” program. Almost two-thirds (64%) say that illegal immigration is a very serious problem. The issue plays better with Bush’s base, with Republicans believing it is a more serious issue than Democrats (70% - 59%).

A majority believe the U.S. is not doing enough to secure its borders (74%) and that illegal immigrants hurt the U.S. economy (64%). Most (72%) favor a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, with a quarter (24%) opposing. The public is split though on whether illegal immigrants should be eligible to register for the program in the U.S. (50%) or have to return to their own countries to apply (45%).

METHODOLOGY: The TIME Poll was conducted by telephone between November 29 - December 1, 2005 among a national random sample of 1,004 adults, age 18 and older throughout America. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing. The full Time questionnaire and trend data may be found Mon., Dec. 5 at: www.srbi.com.

Bush Poll