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CBS NEWS POLL
For release: February 27, 2006
6:30 P.M.

PRESIDENT BUSH, THE PORTS, AND IRAQ
February 22-26, 2006

The Bush Administration faces a public overwhelmingly opposed to the agreement to give a Dubai-owned firm operational control over six American ports, and more pessimistic about the situation in Iraq than ever before. This, along with reminders of the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina and negative assessments of how the government and the President have handled it for six months, has brought the President's approval ratings down to new lows.

George W. Bush now receives the lowest marks of his Presidency, even on fighting terrorism, a measure that has long been his strongest suit. Half of Americans now disapprove of how he is handling that effort, while 43% approve.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF WAR ON TERROR

                 Now     1/2006    10/2005       2/2005
Approve     43%      52%          47%           61%
Disapprove 50         43             46               33

A large majority of Republicans still approves of the President's handling of terrorism, although their approval, like that of all adults, has dropped nine points in the last month, to 78% now. Most Democrats and Independents disapprove.

Bush's overall job rating has tumbled, too, to an all-time low in this poll. It is now 34%, down from 42% last month. 59% disapprove. The previous low of 35% came last October, one month after Hurricane Katrina, shortly after the withdrawal of Harriet Miers from a Supreme Court nomination and just after U.S. deaths in Iraq reached the 2,000 mark. Not since November 2004 has a majority approved of the President's overall performance.

 PRES. BUSH JOB APPROVALS

              Now    1/2006    10/2005   11/2004
Overall     34%    42%        35%        51%
Iraq         30%    37%        32%         40%
Economy 32%    39%        34%         42%
Energy     27% -- -- --

Ratings for the President's handling of the Iraq war have also plummeted, to their all-time low of 30%. And approval of his handling of the economy is also down. So are evaluations of the national economy. Half say it is in good shape today; last month 57% described it that way.

THE NATIONAL ECONOMY IS…

                   Now     1/2006
Good            50%        57%
Bad              48%        42% 

Just 27% of Americans approve of how President Bush is handling the overall energy situation. 60% disapprove. Those evaluations are lower than those recorded near the start of his Administration. And on the assessment of his handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, only 32% approve.

THE PORTS DEAL

Just 21% say that the U.S. should let a United Arab Emirates country operate six American ports – 70% say this should not be allowed.

SHOULD U.A.E. COMPANY OPERATE U.S. PORTS?

Yes 21%
No 70%

The opposition to the ports deal crosses party lines – 58% of Republicans oppose it, as do more than seven in ten Democrats and Independents. The question text included Bush administration positions – that the U.S. would continue to control security at the ports, that a foreign company from Britain now runs the ports, and that the U.A.E. is an ally of the U.S.

THE IRAQ WAR

Americans' perceptions of the U.S. effort in Iraq are at an all-time low. By two to one, Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability an order to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment they have made of progress in Iraq.

Now, just 36% say things are going well for the U.S. in Iraq. The only other times fewer than 40% were positive were in spring 2004, right after the photographs of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were published. In January, after the Iraqi election, 45% of American said things were going well.

HOW ARE THINGS GOING IN IRAQ?

                 Now    1/2006    5/2004    5/2003
Well          36%       45%       37%       72%
Badly         62          54          60          24

Republicans are still positive about what's happening in Iraq. Two-thirds of Republicans say the rebuilding effort is going well there. But that, too, has slipped a bit since January, when three-quarters thought so.

This negative assessment of how things are going has affected evaluations of the war overall. Now, just 29%, the lowest since the spring of 2004, say the results of the war in Iraq have been worth the cost. However, more, 41%, say that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the costs.

IS IRAQ WORTH THE COST?

                                           Yes     No
The results of the war            29%    63
Removing Saddam Hussein   41%    53

There has also been a decline on the question of overall U.S. involvement in Iraq. Only 41% now say that the U.S. did the right thing taking military action against Iraq. Last month, after the Iraqi election, 47% agreed. This matches the low levels of support found last October, at the time of the previous lowest overall approval rating for the President. The last time a majority approved of military action in Iraq was just before the 2004 election.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

                                                   Now      1/2006      10/2005      10/2004
Right thing                                     41%         47%            41%       53%
Should have stayed out                  54            50               55           42

ASSESSING THE PRESIDENT

For the first time in this poll, most Americans - 51% - say George W. Bush does not care much about people like themselves. Last fall, 47% thought he did not care. Today just 17% say Bush cares a lot about people like them, and another 30% think he cares some.
 
DOES BUSH CARE ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU?

                                     Now     10/2005     1/2002
A lot                               17%       24%         34%
Some                              30%       28%         42%
Not much/none                51%       47%         23%
 
And even aside from his low job performance rating, few Americans today – just 29% - offer a positive view of George W. Bush. 53% have an unfavorable view of him, his highest unfavorable rating among all Americans since he took office. 

VIEWS OF GEORGE W. BUSH

                                          Now    10/2005    2/2004    11/2002    3/2001
Favorable                           29%     33%         44%         55%       42%
Unfavorable                        53        51            36             25          19
Can't say/                           17        15             19            20          38
     Haven't heard enough   
 
FOREIGN POLICY CONCERNS

When Americans are asked about the most important problems facing the country today, four in ten mention a foreign concern – the war, terrorism, defense, or another international issue. And in the last few weeks, international issues in the news included more than the ports controversy and the war in Iraq.

Most Americans believe that the nuclear threat from Iran can still be contained with diplomacy. One in five Americans now thinks the threat from Iran requires military action now.

 THREAT FROM IRAN….

Requires military action now          20%
Can be contained with diplomacy   55
Not a threat at this time                  19

But Americans are divided about U.S. intervention, generally, in countries that are unfriendly to the U.S. They divide evenly on whether the U.S. government should work secretly inside unfriendly countries to try and overthrow those governments. In the year after 9/11, 70% thought the C.I.A. should be taking such actions.

SHOULD U.S. SECRETLY TRY TO OVERTHROW
UNFRIENDLY GOVERNMENTS?

Yes 44%
No  44

Americans reject violent Muslim reaction to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper – which included protests around the world. Only 9% say that is justified. However, Americans are divided on whether or not the Danish newspaper should have published those cartoons in the first place. On both questions, more than a third said they didn't know enough to judge.

DANISH CARTOON CONTROVERSY

                                      Justified    Not justified    Don't Know
Publishing cartoons            32%             27                  41
Violent Muslim reaction       9%             56                  35

Favorable assessments of Islam, the religion, are slightly lower now than they were in the months after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The public is also less certain than it was then that Islam is no more violent a religion than others are.

OPINION OF ISLAM

                            Now            2/2002
Favorable             23%              30%
Not Favorable       36                 33

COMPARED WITH OTHER RELIGIONS, ISLAM ENCOURAGES VIOLENCE…

                      Now     3/2002 (GALLUP)
More                39%      35%
Same                 35         49
Less                    8         12

THE VICE-PRESIDENT AND THE HUNTING ACCIDENT

One surprising bright spot for the Administration is that Americans appear ready to move on after the hunting accident involving Vice-President Dick Cheney: most say it was understandable that the accident could have occurred.

An overwhelming majority – 76% - says the accident was understandable. Hunters (those who have gone hunting in the last year) feel much the same. One in five Americans says there was no excuse for the accident.

VIEWS OF &CHENEYrsquo;S HUNTING ACCIDENT…

Understandable it could happen        76%
No excuse for it to happen                20

The coverage of the hunting accident may have made the public's generally negative view of Vice-President Cheney a bit more so. Today 46% hold a negative view of Mr. Cheney, and just 18% hold a favorable one, down from 23% in January.

VIEWS OF DICK CHENEY

                                    Now      1/2006      1/2005      1/2002
Favorable                      18%         23%       28%           39
Unfavorable                   46            41           33              11
Can't say/                      35            35           38              49
    Haven't heard enough

One-third of Americans believe Cheney has a stronger role as Vice-President in this White House than most other VPs have had in past Administrations. Democrats are just as likely as Republicans to feel this way. 42% of Americans say Cheney's influence is the same as that of his predecessors. This view is mostly unchanged from four years ago.

Almost half of Americans – including most Republicans – accept Cheney's explanation of why there was a delay in reporting the accident. But just as many – including most Democrats (who also hold negative overall views of the Vice President) aren't satisfied with that explanation.

CHENEY'S EXPLANATION FOR DELAY IN REPORTING THE ACCIDENT WAS…

                          All        Reps       Dems        Inds
Satisfactory        46%       67%        30%         45%
Unsatisfactory     46          26           65            43

Back in October 1969, CBS News asked if Senator Ted Kennedy had given a satisfactory explanation for not reporting his car accident at Chappaquidick right away. Then, only 33% were satisfied.

Two-thirds of Americans clearly want to move on: they say the media has spent too much time covering the story now.

MEDIA COVERAGE OF CHENEY HUNTING ACCIDENT

Too much time            66%
Right amount of time   22
Too little time               9

WIRETAPPING

The public remains divided as to whether or not it approves of the President authorizing wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. 51% now approve of the practice, similar to results last month.
 

APPROVE OF BUSH AUTHORIZING WIRETAPS TO FIGHT TERRORISM?

                 Now      1/2006
Approve      51%      53%
Disapprove  47         46

83% of Republicans, as opposed to 33% of Democrats and 42% of Independents, approve of the President authorizing wiretaps to fight terrorism without a warrant.

When the specific reason for the wiretapping – to reduce the threat of terrorism – is omitted from the question, the number of Americans who approve of this action drops by 5 points.

APPROVE OF BUSH AUTHORIZING WIRETAPS?

                     Now       1/2006
Approve         46%         46%
Disapprove     50            50

Americans are somewhat skeptical of the Bush Administration's claim that the president currently has the legal authority to conduct such wiretaps. Slightly more than half of all Americans believe the President does not have this legal authority, while 43% believe he does.

DOES THE PRESIDENT HAVE THE LEGAL AUTHORITY TO AUTHORIZE
WIRETAPS WITHOUT A WARRANT TO FIGHT TERRORISM?

Yes      43%
No       51

Whether or not someone believes the President has the legal authority to conduct wiretaps without court warrants seems to be related to whether or not they approve of the wiretapping generally. 68% of Americans who approve of the President authorizing wiretaps without a court warrant in order to fight terrorism also believe he has the legal authority to do so. Conversely, only 7% of those who disapprove of the practice think he has the authority to conduct such wiretaps.

63% of Republicans – as opposed to 28% of Democrats and 43% of Independents – believe that the President has this authority in order to fight terrorism.

Changing the law would have limited impact on those Americans who both do not think the President has this legal authority and do not approve of the practice. 60% of those say they would still oppose the President authorizing wiretaps without a court warrant even if the law were changed to allow him to do so.

Nearly half of all Americans – 47% - said they had not much or no confidence in the ability of government agencies to correctly tell whose phone calls and emails should be monitored and whose should not, up 6 points from last month. Half the public does have confidence.

CONFIDENCE GOVERNMENT CAN CORRECTLY TELL
WHOSE CALLS SHOULD BE MONITORED?

                         Now      1/2006
Great deal           11%       10%
Fair amount         40          48
Not much/none    47          41

Fewer Americans are personally concerned that their own phone calls and emails will be monitored. 7 in 10 are not very or not at all concerned.

CONCERNED THE GOV'T MIGHT MONITOR YOUR OWN CALLS OR EMAILS?

                             Now      1/2006
Very                        14%      22%
Somewhat                17         13
Not very/not at all     70         64

Blacks are considerably more concerned than whites in this regard. 47% of blacks, compared to 27% of whites, say they are at least somewhat concerned.

But while most are not worried specifically about their own telephone calls and emails being monitored, many Americans continue to voice more broad concerns about losing some of their civil liberties. A third of all Americans say they are very concerned - and another third say they are at least somewhat concerned - that they might lose some of their civil liberties as a result of the measures enacted by the Bush Administration to fight terrorism. These numbers are virtually unchanged since last month.

CONCERNED ABOUT LOSING CIVIL LIBERTIES BECAUSE OF
BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S ANTI-TERROR MEASURES?

                   Now        1/2006
Very                       33%       34%
Somewhat               31         30
Not very/not at all    34         35

Republicans are less likely to be concerned than Democrats or Independents.

ASSESSING THE ADMINISTRATION

In general, while most - 67% - think that people in the Bush Administration generally do not take responsibility when things go wrong, the Bush Administration fares much better than most politicians do on this measure. A separate sample of respondents was asked if "most people in government," generally, took responsibility, and only 8% said yes.

DO…TAKE RESPONSIBILITY WHEN THINGS GO WRONG?

                                                 Yes      No
People in Bush Administration     27%    67%
People in government                   8%     86%

However, amid the recent controversies -- whether the Cheney hunting accident was reported in a timely fashion, the announcement of the ports deal, and the recent debate over wiretapping, most Americans believe the Administration is generally too secretive about information that the public needs to know.

IS THE ADMINISTRATION TOO SECRETIVE?

Yes 58%
No  36

ASSESSING CONGRESS

The public continues to hold a dim view of Congress, with just 28% approving and 61% disapproving of the way Congress is handling its job.

JOB APPROVAL OF CONGRESS

                                 Now      1/2006      2/2005
Approve                      28%        29%        41%
Disapprove                   61          61           44

One year ago the public was more evenly split, with 41% approving and 44% disapproving. While Congressional approval hovered in the low to mid 30s for most of last year, it dropped to 29% last month, and is currently the lowest job approval rating for Congress in almost a decade.

In both February 2002 (a few months after 9/11) and 1998 (at the start of President Clinton's Lewinsky scandal), 50% of Americans approved of how Congress was handling its job. Today's job approval numbers are closer to those seen at the beginning of 1994, when in January 30% of Americans approved and 58% disapproved of how Congress was handling its job. That year, the Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives.

_______________________________________________________________

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1018 adults, interviewed by telephone February 22-26, 2006. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points.