WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate in November's congressional elections who opposes President Bush, and 58 percent consider his second term a failure so far, according to a poll released Thursday.
Fewer people consider Bush to be honest and trustworthy now than did a year ago, and 53 percent said they believe his administration deliberately misled the public about Iraq's purported weapons program before the U.S. invasion in 2003, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found.
Pollsters interviewed 1,006 American adults Friday through Sunday. Most questions in the survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. (Poll)
Bush is preparing for his State of the Union address, set for next week, and told reporters Thursday that he is "looking forward" to campaigning for Republicans in November's elections. (Full story)
But the latest poll indicated Americans remain in a pessimistic mood.
Fifty-eight percent of those polled said Bush's second term has been a failure so far, while 38 percent said they consider it a success. A smaller number -- 52 percent -- consider his entire presidency a failure to date, with 46 percent calling it successful. (Complete poll results)
In the latter case, the numbers fall within those two questions' margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Bush defended his performance Thursday, pointing to an improved economy despite higher prices for gasoline, heating oil and natural gas. He said the November elections would be about "peace and prosperity."
"We've got a record, and a good one," he said. "That's what I intend to campaign on and explain to people why I made the decisions I made, and why they're necessary to protect the American people, and why they've been necessary to keep this economy strong -- and why the policies we've got will keep this economy strong in the future."
But 51 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for a candidate in congressional elections who opposes Bush, while 40 percent said they were likely to vote for a candidate who backs the president.
Bush's own approval rating remained at 43 percent, unchanged since mid-December, according to results released earlier this week. Another 54 percent disapproved of his job performance, that survey found.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in the latest poll -- 62 percent -- said they were dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, while 35 percent said they were satisfied.
And 64 percent said things in the United States have gotten worse in the past five years, while 28 percent said things have improved.
For the first time since Bush took office in 2001, a majority of those polled said the president -- who campaigned as "a uniter, not a divider" -- has been a divisive leader. Fifty-four percent called Bush a divider, while 41 percent called him a uniter.
Just over a third -- 34 percent -- said Bush had a clear plan for solving the nation's problems, and 44 percent agreed that he cared about the needs of people like them and shared their values.
A narrow majority of 51 percent said they consider Bush to be a strong and decisive leader, compared with 48 percent who disagreed. Although those totals fall within the margin of sampling error, they mark a decline from a year ago, when 61 percent called the president strong and decisive.
Split on honesty
Americans were divided evenly -- 49-49 -- on the question of Bush's honesty.
The number of those polled who consider Bush trustworthy improved from a November survey, when only 46 percent rated him honest. But the figure is down from a year ago, when 56 percent considered him honest and trustworthy, and only 41 percent disapproved.
Specifically, 53 percent said they believe his administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, as Bush and other top officials argued on the eve of the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Once Hussein was overthrown, U.S. inspectors concluded that Iraq had not kept stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and a nuclear weapons program, though Iraq had concealed weapons-related research from the United Nations.
U.S. troops are battling a persistent insurgency in Iraq, with two soldiers killed in combat Wednesday, raising the American death toll to 2,238. More than 2,000 of those have died since Bush declared an end to "major combat operations" May 1, 2003.
The war in Iraq topped the list of respondents' concerns going into 2006, with 58 percent calling it extremely important. Terrorism was next with 57 percent, followed by health care with 47 percent, the economy at 46 percent and corruption at 45 percent.
Most of those polled said they believe the United States will have a "significant number" of troops in Iraq for more than a year, with 47 percent believing the U.S. commitment will last one to three years and 33 percent believing the U.S. presence will last longer than that.
Thirty-four percent said they considered economic conditions good and 5 percent excellent, while 41 percent rated the economy fair and 18 percent poor.
Asked which way the economy was headed, 35 percent said they believed it was improving; 54 percent said it was getting worse.
Economic growth has picked up in recent months, and unemployment has declined since 2003. But gasoline prices remain well over $2 a gallon on average, and natural gas and heating oil bills have gone up since 2005. (Full story)
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