Bush approval rating hits new low with Californians

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. President Bush's approval rating in California has inched downward to a new post-Sept. 11 low, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.

While 50 percent the state's voters approve of Bush's performance as president, 45 percent disapprove and the rest are undecided. In July, 51 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved.

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, support for Bush leaped upward, with 74 percent saying they approved and 16 percent disapproved of his performance. Just before the attacks, 41 percent approved, and 48 percent disapproved.

In December 2001, Bush's approval rating climbed to a high of 76 percent, but his disapproval rating crept up to 19 percent.

Democrats have reversed their post-attacks approval, with 72 percent now believing he is doing a poor job. Among independent voters, 48 percent now hold a negative view. Bush continues to enjoy an overwhelming 86 percent approval rating from Republicans.

A separate poll released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California found 53 percent of residents approve of Bush's performance in office, while 42 percent disapprove.

The Field Poll shows Californians' approval of Bush's handling of the economy has slipped to 50 percent, down from 55 percent in a similar poll 16 months ago. Moreover, 50 percent of Californians now think the nation is headed down the wrong track, while 44 percent think the nation is moving in the right direction.

Support for Bush's re-election fell from 46 percent to 42 percent just in the last month. Three-quarters of Republicans favored his re-election, while three-quarters of Democrats did not.

Support for his Iraq policy also has slipped, from 60 percent immediately after the United States began its military action to 52 percent approval in the Aug. 10-13 telephone survey of 1,036 adults. The survey has an error margin of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

The Public Policy Institute poll found 50 percent approval for Bush's handling of Iraq and 45 percent disapproval. Those surveyed split on whether the war has gone well, and whether it's worth the cost. Nearly 60 percent said the war improved the nation's long-term security, but 53 percent also believe the Bush administration intentionally exaggerated evidence that Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction.

The Field Poll found sharp party and gender divisions over the cost of the war, as well. Two-thirds of Democrats say the war isn't worth the cost in lives and other losses, while three-quarters of Republicans say it is worthwhile. While 60 percent of men say the war is worth the costs, only 39 percent of women agree.

The Public Policy Institute found 62 percent of Californians approve of Bush's handling of terrorism and domestic security, down from 70 percent a year ago. Nearly 60 percent of residents are confident the United States can prevent future terrorist attacks. However, 54 percent are concerned that new laws will hurt civil liberties.

The PPIC telephone survey of 2,001 adult residents was conducted Aug. 8-17, and has an error margin of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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