70 percent of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction

60 percent of the public dis-approves of Bush's performance on foreign policy and the war on terror

65 percent of the public dis-approves of Bush's handling of Iraq


Bush hits new lows in poll; GOP loses ground on security issue

Ron Fournier Associated Press Apr. 8, 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - President Bush has hit new lows in public opinion for his handling of Iraq and the war on terror and for his overall job performance. Polling also shows the Republican Party surrendering its advantage on national security.

The AP-Ipsos survey is loaded with grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power. Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction, the largest percentage during the Bush presidency and up 13 points from a year ago.

"These numbers are scary. We've lost every advantage we've ever had," GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."

Democratic leaders predicted they will seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst unless the political landscape quickly changes.

There is more at stake than the careers of GOP lawmakers. A Democratic-led Congress could bury the last vestiges of Bush's legislative agenda and subject the administration to high-profile investigations of the Iraq war, the CIA leak case, warrantless eavesdropping and other matters.

In the past two congressional elections, Republicans gained seats on the strength of Bush's popularity and a perception among voters that the GOP was stronger on national security than Democrats.

Those advantages are gone, according to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted this week for the Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.

On an issue the GOP has dominated for decades, Republicans are now locked in a tie with Democrats, 41 percent each, on the question of which party people trust to protect the country.

Democrats made their biggest national security gains among young men, according to the AP-Ipsos poll, which had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

The poll sampled the views of 1,003 adults and was conducted Monday through Wednesday.

The public gives Democrats a slight edge on what party would best handle Iraq, a reversal from Election Day 2004.

As for Bush's ratings:

Only 40 percent of the public approves of Bush's performance on foreign policy and the war on terror, a low-water mark for his presidency. That's down 9 points from a year ago.

Just before the 2002 election, 64 percent of registered voters backed Bush on terror and foreign policy.

Just 35 percent of the public approves of Bush's handling of Iraq, his lowest in AP-Ipsos polling.

"He's in over his head," said Diane Heller, 65, a Pleasant Valley, N.Y., real estate broker and independent voter.

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