WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans disapprove of President George W. Bush's handling of ethics in government and three out of four U.S. voters want him to disclose his administration's links with corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to a poll published over the weekend.
The White House has so far rejected calls to detail its dealings with Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty to fraud charges and has become a witness for prosecutors probing graft in lobbying and legislation.
When Mr. Bush leaves office...the deficit will be larger than it is today, the elderly will be paying more for prescription drugs, and the economy and the health care system will be the same as today, or worse.
poll, CBS News
The Washington Post-ABC News survey of 1,002 Americans comes as Bush prepares for his fifth State of the Union address. He is to deliver the speech to Congress Tuesday amid massing scandals over possible graft, spying on private citizens at home, and alleged mistreatment and torture of terrorism suspects here and abroad.
Critics and some supporters of the administration have demanded that Bush, in the speech, be frank about subjects ranging from the administration's ties to Abramoff to its use of torture in its self-styled 'war on terror' and plans to halt genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region.
In the new poll, 76 percent of those surveyed--and 65 percent of respondents from Bush's own Republican Party--said the president should provide details of all meetings between White House staff and Abramoff. Eighteen percent said Bush should not make public such information.
The Washington Post said the telephone survey, conducted by private pollsters between last Monday and last Thursday, had a three-point margin of error.
The administration has declined to release records of meetings with Abramoff. Bush, at a news conference last Thursday, said he did not know the lobbyist and would not release photographs in which the two appear together. Democrats would use such documentation for ''pure political purposes,'' he told reporters.
Faith in Bush's ability to run a clean ship of state has eroded over the past month, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll. In the latest survey, 56 percent said they disapproved of the president's handling of government ethics, up from 49 percent in mid-December.
While respondents rated Republicans particularly poorly on integrity, they showed little enthusiasm for Democrats.
Asked which party they trusted more to maintain their independence from lobbyists and special interest groups, a scant 27 percent of respondents chose the Republicans, down from 34 percent last month. Democrats, however, garnered support from only 46 percent of respondents--short of a majority.
Indeed, one in four Americans and one in three independents, who often prove crucial ''swing voters'' in close elections, said they didn't trust either party to withstand the corrupting influences of the lobbying industry, according to the poll.
Republicans generally saw the Abramoff case as a matter involving a few bad apples but 55 percent of all respondents said it reflected widespread corruption in Washington.
Additionally, 43 percent said the federal government had become less honest under Bush--about 20 percentage points more than those who said so of Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, when the Whitewater investment scandal threatened to consume the Democrat's presidency.
Separately, the New York Times said Friday that a poll by the newspaper and CBS News concluded that Americans have grown ''skeptical that he [Bush] will be able to achieve significant progress in health care, the economy, the Iraq war and the cost of prescription drugs for older patients before he leaves office in three years.''
''When Mr. Bush leaves office, respondents said, the deficit will be larger than it is today, the elderly will be paying more for prescription drugs, and the economy and the health care system will be the same as today, or worse,'' the Times said.
Nearly two-thirds of the country thinks the nation is ''on the wrong track,'' it added.
''The poll also signaled concern for Republicans as they prepare to defend their control of the House and the Senate in midterm elections this November,'' the Times said. ''Investigations into Congressional corruption are taking a toll as the elections approach: 61 percent of Americans now hold an unfavorable view of Congress, the highest in 10 years.''
Overall, ''more than half of the respondents said they believed that most members of Congress would exchange votes for money or favors,'' it said.
Unlike the Washington Post-ABC News poll, the Times-CBS survey, conducted earlier last week and involving 1,229 respondents, said a slim majority held a favorable view of Democrats while a similar proportion wrote off Republicans as ''more likely to be unduly influenced by lobbyists.''
Fifty-one percent of respondents in the Times-CBS poll viewed the Republican Party unfavorably--the worst rating since Bush took office. Fifty-three percent said they viewed the Democrats favorably.
The survey had a three-point margin of error.
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