WASHINGTON – For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
On virtually every key measure of presidential character and performance, the new survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent now disapprove of his performance in office – the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.
Virtually the only possible bright spot for Bush in the survey was generally favorable, if not quite enthusiastic, early reaction to his latest Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Half of Americans say he should be confirmed by the Senate and fewer than a third view him as too conservative, the poll found.
Overall, the survey underscores how several pillars of Bush’s presidency have begun to crumble under the combined weight of events and mistakes by the White House. Bush’s approval ratings have been in decline for months, but on issues of personal trust, honesty and values, Bush has suffered some of his most notable declines. Moreover, Bush has always retained majority support on his handling of the U.S. campaign terrorism – until now, when 51 percent registered disapproval.
The CIA leak case has apparently contributed to a withering decline in how Americans view Bush personally. The survey found that 40 percent now view him as honest and trustworthy – a 13 percentage point drop in the past 18 months. Nearly six in 10 – 58 percent – said they had doubts about Bush’s honesty, the first time in his presidency that more than half the country has questioned his personal integrity.
The indictment Friday of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, in the CIA case added to the burden of an administration already reeling from a failed Supreme Court nomination, public dissatisfaction with the economy and continued bloodshed in Iraq. According to the survey, 52 percent say the charges against Libby signal the presence of deeper ethical wrongdoing in the administration.
Beyond the leak case, Americans give the administration low ratings on ethics, according to the survey, with 67 percent rating the administration negatively on handling ethical matters, while just 32 percent give the administration positive marks.
Another poll released Thursday showed a similar erosion of support. A new AP-Ipsos poll found Bush’s approval rating was at 37 percent, compared with 39 percent a month ago. About 59 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved.
The intensity of disapproval is the strongest to date, with 42 percent now saying they “strongly disapprove” of how Bush is handling his job – twice as many as the 20 percent who said they “strongly approve.”