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NEWSWEEK POLL: Bush Job Approval Rating Hits Record Newsweek Poll Low 42%

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NEWSWEEK POLL: Bush Job Approval Rating Hits Record Newsweek Poll Low (42%); For the First Time a Majority (52%) Disapproves

Saturday May 15, 12:17 pm ET

Forty-One Percent of Registered Voters Want to See Bush Re-Elected, a New Low; Approval Rating On Iraq Slips to 35 Percent

Majority (51%) Now Supports Gay Marriage (28%) Or Civil Unions (23%); 43 Percent Oppose All Legal Recognition

NEW YORK, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- In the wake of the continuing Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, President George W. Bush's job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level ever recoded in a Newsweek Poll; 42 percent of Americans approve (down from 49% in the last Newsweek Poll, April 8-9, 2004) while for the first time since he took office, a majority of Americans (52%) disapproves. Compared with other first-term Presidents at the same point in the election cycle, Bush's approval rating is better than his father George H.W. Bush in May of 1992 (35%), but lower than Gerald Ford (47% in May 1976) who also failed to win a second term; Bush's approval rating is also lower than Bill Clinton (48% in May of 1996) and Ronald Reagan (54% in May 1984) who won second terms. Just 41 percent of registered voters say they would like to see Bush re-elected (also a new low and down from 46% in a March poll ), while a majority (51%) would not. Overall, sixty-two percent are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. (30% disagree).

Bush's approval rating for his handling of Iraq has also dropped sharply - - to 35 percent (down from 44% in the April poll), the lowest rating yet recorded in a Newsweek poll; 57 percent disapprove, up from 51 percent in the last poll. And for the first time in a Newsweek poll, a majority (54%) of Americans say they are not too confident (27%) or not at all confident (27%) that the United States will be able to establish a stable government in Iraq over the long term. Despite this, a majority (51%) thinks the U.S. did the right thing in going to war with Iraq (down from 57% in the April poll), while 43 percent disagree.

Concerning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, almost half (45%) say the conduct was authorized by higher-ups in the military chain of command, while 36 percent say low-ranking soldiers were acting on their own. Forty- three percent say only some (28%) or very few (15%) of the Iraqis subjected to abuse were suspected terrorists; 26 percent say all (10%) or most (16%) were suspected terrorists. A majority (57%) says that despite the scandal, the U.S. can still achieve its goals in Iraq and must keep its commitment; 32 percent say the U.S. cannot succeed and should withdraw its troops.

Meanwhile, reaction to the video of the brutal beheading of an American civilian by Islamic militants was mixed: 43 percent say it's a reminder of the brutality of our enemies and why the U.S. went to war in Iraq, while 38 percent say it shows that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is making Americans a bigger target for terrorists.

On the political fall-out following the prisoner abuse scandal, a majority (57%) say Donald Rumsfeld should remain as Secretary of Defense; 30 percent say he should be removed. A majority (54%) also says that it is inappropriate for Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry to criticize Bush on his handling of Iraq policy while our troops are fighting there (33% disagree). And a majority (56%) says Democrats in Congress are more interested in making political gains from the scandal than getting the facts about prisoner abuse; 45 percent say the same of Congressional Republicans.

Turning to this year's presidential race, if the election were held today, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry would narrowly defeat President George W. Bush in a two-way match-up by 46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters, but with a margin of error of three percentage points, the result is a statistical dead-heat. (In the April Newsweek poll, Kerry defeated Bush by a decisive 50 percent to 43 percent). In a three-way match-up with Independent Ralph Nader, Kerry would again narrowly defeat Bush by 43 percent to 42 percent (again, a statistical dead-heat), while Nader would get 5 percent of the vote. Voter opinion on Bush is evenly split: 46 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him (46% disagree); while 47 percent say the have a favorable impression of Kerry (36% disagree).

On a separate topic, as Massachusetts gets set to allow the first legally- recognized same-sex marriages in the nation, the poll shows that a majority (51%) of adults approve of some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples; 28 percent say they favor full marriage rights, while 23 percent favor civil unions or partnerships but not gay marriage. But more than four in 10 (43%) oppose any form of legal recognition. Big differences in attitudes toward gay marriage are seen by age group. Almost two-thirds (64%) of young adults aged 18-29 favor some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples; 41 percent favor full marriage rights, 23 percent favor civil unions and 34 percent oppose any form of legal recognition. Among Americans aged 30 to 49, 34 percent support gay marriage and 20 percent civil unions, while 40 percent oppose all legal recognition. And among 50 to 64 years olds, 23 percent support marriage, 27 percent civil unions and 46 percent no legal recognition. In contrast, seniors aged over 65 are least likely to favor full marriage rights (8%) and most likely to oppose any form of gay marriage (57%).

This poll is part of the May 24 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, May 17). For this Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1, 010 adults aged 18 and older on May 13-14, 2004. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

(Read Newsweek's news releases at www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com Click "Pressroom" at the bottom of the page.)


Source: Newsweek


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