Tuesday, February 8, 2005

President Bush’s second-term strategy of aggressively pursing his domestic agenda and remaining steadfast in his Iraq policy seems to be paying off as he enjoys his highest job-approval rating in more than a year.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday put Mr. Bush’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, the highest since a 59 percent rating in January 2004.

Last month, Mr. Bush had the worst job-approval numbers of any re-elected president since World War II. The Gallup Poll put his approval rating at 48 percent, and a Time magazine poll showed that only 49 percent of Americans felt good about the job he was doing as president.

Since then, however, Mr. Bush has delivered a well-received inaugural address, which touched on the themes of spreading freedom throughout the world, and last week’s State of the Union address, which outlined a bold domestic plan — including an overhaul of Social Security.

Republican political consultant Michael Edleman said the way that Mr. Bush articulated his vision for spreading freedom throughout the Middle East, and its validation by the strong turnout in the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, turned the tide.

“Maybe, just maybe, this president and his advisers were right all along,” Mr. Edleman said. “That’s why his numbers are up.”

Karlyn Bowman, a poll analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, said she’d “like to see a few other new polls” for comparison before speculating about the increase.

The Gallup Poll showed that 72 percent thought Social Security had at least “major problems,” but only 44 percent approved of Mr. Bush’s approach to incorporate private accounts into the system.

The poll of 1,010 adults included about 100 more people who lean Republican than Democratic, which Mrs. Bowman said could be a factor in Mr. Bush’s spike in approval.

“We know historically that State of the Union speeches don’t usually give presidents much of a boost,” she said. “A president’s supporters are more likely to watch the speech than his detractors, though he did get a boost among independents” in a recent AEI poll.

According to the Gallup Poll, 55 percent said the policies Mr. Bush has proposed would move the country in the right direction.

And after months of public reservations about how the president has handled the situation in Iraq, half approve of Mr. Bush’s job there. Fifty-three percent said things are going well in that country and 64 percent said it is likely to develop a stable, democratic government.

On Jan. 7, only 40 percent approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling Iraq.

According to the poll, 57 percent of respondents said Mr. Bush’s policy of supporting the growth of democratic movements in every nation on earth should either be the top priority or a high priority for the president’s second term, and 52 percent agreed with the president that it is essential to the long-term security of the United States.

Mr. Bush’s popular momentum seems to have buoyed the Republican Party and damaged the Democrats in Congress.

Asked who would move the country in the right direction, 50 percent said congressional Republicans and only 41 percent said Democrats.

Howard Dean, the failed Democratic presidential candidate and likely future chairman of the Democratic National Committee, registered an approval rating of only 31 percent and a disapproval rating of 38 percent. Republicans, in general, received an approval rating of 56 percent, while Democrats rated 46 percent.

Veteran Democratic political consultant Donna Brazile said that given the “pre-eminence” of the Republican Party right now, “I am surprised they are not polling over 60 percent across the board.”

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