WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans don't really trust President Clinton, and they don't think much of his morals, says a new poll. But a strong majority surely think he's done a good job running the country.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday night showed that 65 percent approve of his job performance, about the same as the job approval rating Ronald Reagan had at the end of his term. They had the highest end-of-term rating of any president in the last half-century.
The approval of Clinton's job performance has tracked closely with public perception of economic conditions. As the economic recovery began to gain momentum in the summer of 1996, the president's approval rating crept above 60 percent.
The public's view of Clinton is sharply divided along partisan lines, with 93 percent of Democrats approving of his job performance and only 32 percent of Republicans. Clinton gets positive marks from different groups. Six in 10 Republicans and conservatives approve of his handling of the economy. Three-fourths overall approve of his handling of the economy and of race relations, while almost that many approve of his handling of foreign affairs. Only half approve of his handling of health care, and six in 10 approve of his handling of the welfare system.
As he prepares to leave office Saturday, Americans are decidedly less upbeat on personal measures of Clinton. Three-fourths say he does not have high moral and ethical standards, and almost that many say he is not trustworthy. Two-thirds said he is a strong leader, and half say he will be thought of as an outstanding or above-average president. And six in 10 say he should not be charged with a crime for lying under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
People remain sharply divided on whether Clinton should have been impeached, with just over half saying he should not have been. They also are split on whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the president. The ABC-Post poll of 1,513 adults was taken Jan. 11-15 and has an error margin of 2.5 percentage points.
Looking ahead, half of Americans said they are at least somewhat optimistic about the next four years, according to another new poll, as President-elect Bush prepares to take office at the same time that confidence in the economy is slipping.
About four in 10 say they're confident Bush has the right goals and policies as well as the right personal characteristics to be president, according to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday evening. Almost that many say they are only somewhat confident he has those goals and characteristics. Just over half, 53 percent, said the conditions faced by Bush will be more difficult than those that faced Bill Clinton when he became president in 1993. Roughly the same number felt that Clinton faced more difficult circumstances that Bush's father did when he became president in 1988.
The NBC-Journal poll of 1,018 adults was taken Saturday through Monday and has an error margin of 3 percentage points.
Republican polling done the day after the presidential election, found that voters who backed Bush did so both because of his personality and his agenda. According to the GOP poll, more people thought Bush was intelligent -- a question raised about him during the campaign -- than thought Democratic nominee Al Gore was honest, one of the major criticisms of the Democrat.
And the poll found that Gore won the last week of the election campaign ''primarily because the Democrats trashed George Bush, especially in the African-American community and made black voters vote against George Bush rather than for Al Gore,'' said GOP pollster Whit Ayres of Atlanta, who conducted the national poll of 1,200 voters on Nov. 8 and presented it Wednesday to the Republican National Committee. That poll also had a 3 percentage point error margin.
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