Public's trust in Bush at low ebb

  1. Poll: Public's trust in Bush at low ebb
    Many think he lied or exaggerated on WMDBy Richard Morin and Dana Milbank

    Updated: 12:16 a.m. ET Feb. 13, 2004WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans believe President Bush either lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

    The survey results, which also show declining support for the war in Iraq and for Bush's leadership in general, indicate the public is increasingly questioning the president's truthfulness -- a concern for Bush's political advisers as his reelection bid gets underway.

    Barely half -- 52 percent -- now believe Bush is "honest and trustworthy," down 7 percentage points since late October and his worst showing since the question was first asked, in March 1999. At his best, in the summer of 2002, Bush was viewed as honest by 71 percent. The survey found that nearly seven in 10 think Bush "honestly believed" Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Even so, 54 percent thought Bush exaggerated or lied about prewar intelligence.

    Honesty and credibility have been central to Bush's appeal since the 2000 campaign, when he benefited from disgust over President Bill Clinton's lies about the Monica S. Lewinsky affair and when Bush's campaign accused then-Vice President Al Gore of "saying one thing and doing another." But a number of factors, including the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq and the administration's underestimating of its Medicare prescription drug plan's costs, appear to have undermined perceptions of his credibility.

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    Bush's possible Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), has begun to talk about a "credibility gap." Even some Bush allies say they have been misled about Iraq's weapons, and the current Time magazine cover story asks: "Believe him or not -- does Bush have a credibility gap?"

    Questions about Bush's use of prewar intelligence, in addition to feeding doubts about his honesty, have sent his performance rating plummeting. Fifty percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, the lowest level of his presidency in Post-ABC polling and down 8 percentage points from January. The survey found that, for the first time since the war ended, fewer than half of Americans -- 48 percent -- believe the war was worth fighting, down 8 points from last month. Fifty percent said the war was not worth it.

    Nine-point advantage for Kerry
    These doubts have affected Bush's reelection prospects. In a head-to-head matchup, Kerry beat Bush by 52 percent to 43 percent among registered voters. Bush had more passionate support -- 83 percent of his backers said their support was strong, while 59 percent of Kerry supporters said so -- and retains an advantage over Kerry in dealing with Iraq and the war on terrorism. But the Democrat was seen as better able to handle the economy and jobs, education, and health care -- all top issues with voters this year.

    The survey found a steep drop in public perceptions of Bush as a president and as an individual. In a sign that Bush has been set back by recent controversies over Iraqi weapons, his National Guard record and the federal budget, the number of Americans viewing him as a "strong leader" has slipped to 61 percent, down 6 points from December and the lowest level since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    Bush's rating on handling the economy stood at 44 percent, down 7 percentage points, with nearly half of the public saying they are worse off now than they were when Bush became president three years ago. Six in 10 disapprove of the job Bush is doing creating jobs. On education, 47 percent said they approve of the job Bush is doing, down 8 points from January. And his rating on health care has also fallen.

    But the president's declining ratings related to Iraq were most striking. Approval of his handling of the situation there has fallen to 47 percent, down 8 percentage points in the past three weeks. About half of Americans -- 51 percent -- said they would prefer a report evaluating the accuracy and use of prewar intelligence before the election, while 35 percent favor what Bush has ordered: a broader study of the overall accuracy of U.S. intelligence-gathering operations that reports its findings after the election.

    While 21 percent believe that Bush lied about the threat posed by Iraq, a larger number -- 31 percent -- thought he exaggerated but did not lie. Indeed, six in 10 Americans believed, as Bush did, that Iraq had such weapons.

    Three in four Democrats said Bush either lied or exaggerated about what was known about Iraq's weapons, while an equally large majority of Republicans said the president did neither. Slightly more than half of all independents believed Bush had misled the public about Iraq's weapons cache.

    'He's manipulatable'
    "I think he was believing what he wanted to believe," said one respondent, Ron Perholtz, an accountant from Jupiter, Fla. "I can't say he's dishonest. He heard what he wanted to hear. He's manipulatable by [Vice President] Cheney and others."

    Many respondents expressed regrets about the Iraq war. For example, Mike Richcreek, 52, of Warner Robbins, Ga., believes Bush neither exaggerated nor lied. "He went by what the intelligence given to him showed," Richcreek said. But, at the same time, Richcreek said he has begun to doubt the merits of the war.

    "I'm not sure now we should have gone to war in the first place," he said. "You think of all of our young kids getting killed. That's a problem. I'm glad I didn't have to make the decision."

    A total of 1,003 randomly selected adults were interviewed Feb. 10 to 11. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    Assistant polling director Claudia Deane contributed to this report.

    © 2004 The Washington Post Company
  2. 31 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    OH BUT HE DOES NOT CHEAT ON HIS WIFE....supposedly...

    doesnt' that make it better????
  4. by   barefootlady
    GWB is not well liked on my mountain. The only man that will vote for him this election is a 82 yr old man who thinks he is a good man because he has seen him in church a lot lately. As a neighbor said, "he's praying for a win in Nov., since it will take a miracle for him to be reelected." I don't think he can steal Florida this time, so wonder what state he and his Daddy have in mind? Odds here are on California or Texas. Guess time will tell.
  5. by   hbscott
    I certainly don't trust the Bush Administration right now. I think that they are "in bed" with big business to say the least.

    I had high hopes for Howard Dean but his campaign is stuck right now. It looks like we are marching to yet another "lesser of two evils" Presidential election.

  6. by   hbscott
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    OH BUT HE DOES NOT CHEAT ON HIS WIFE....supposedly...doesnt' that make it better????
    Stuck on this are we?

    Last edit by hbscott on Feb 13, '04
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from hbscott
    Stuck on this are we?

    guess so. It's that kinda day yanno?

    Have a good one.
  8. by   VivaLasViejas
    All I can say is, it's about time the American people wake up from their post 9/11 trance and start questioning Bush's true motives. I don't think anyone really knew for sure whether there were WMD's in Iraq, but we do know that Bush had it in for Saddam Hussein for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Saddam had tried to have Bush's daddy killed. That's a helluva rationale for sending over 500 young Americans to their deaths, with no end in sight even now. But while Shrub may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, neither is he dumb enough to commit political suicide by admitting this---probably not even to himself. The fact that Iraq just happens to be sitting atop a rich oil supply had nothing to do with it either, right? Lord knows there are other countries with evil dictators who torture and maim their citizens, impoverish their country, and develop their own weapons systems. So why didn't we go after North Korea, which has been taunting us by practically waving THEIR WMD's right under our noses? Why weren't we more aggressive about pursuing Osama, who literally fired the first shot in the war on terrorism on 9/11/01?

    The only good thing about Bush's foreign policy, it seems, is that it occupies his time to the point where he hasn't been able to completely ruin the lives of middle and lower income least, not yet. He's done enough damage, though, in the form of the overtime bill, which helps lower income workers but strips those higher on the food chain of the right to earn a decent living. He wants to reward illegal immigrants with citizenship so that they can continue to fill jobs at the lowest possible pay, which does nothing but depress wages for everyone and fill the pockets of CEOs. He has pushed his No Child Left Behind Act while failing to fund schools so that they can meet his standards. And he has done absolutely nothing about the fact that some 40+ million American men, women, and children have no access to health care........his answer is more "free market" and "medical savings accounts", which are absolutely useless to those who literally can't afford a $5 co-payment for the medications they need.

    I don't know that John Kerry has all the answers. I don't believe any one candidate does. But one thing's for certain, George W. Bush ISN'T the man to lead America back to being the land of the free, not the land where corporate greed and selfishness rule, where young lives are wasted in a "cause" that is, at bottom, a war of revenge, and where politicians and citizens alike are far quicker to blame others for their own errors in judgement, than to take responsibility for them and say, "I made a mistake".

    And that's all I have to say about THAT.
  9. by   jnette
    and all i say in response is bravo !!!
  10. by   hbscott
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    guess so. It's that kinda day yanno? Have a good one.
    Thanks Deb. Hope you have a good day and a great weekend too.


  11. by   maureeno
    "You can fool some of the people all the time. You can fool all the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time." --Abraham Lincoln.

    "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on."
    --G. W. Bush
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from maureeno
    "You can fool some of the people all the time. You can fool all the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time." --Abraham Lincoln.

    "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on."
    --G. W. Bush
    woah Maureen. Speaks volumes eh? did not know this was something Bush said....but surprised? no.
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    I do not trust polls. That said here:
    from the February 13, 2004 edition

    Inflection point on war: public evenly split
    Factors behind a sharp drop in public support may include casualties in Iraq, questions about the prewar rationale for war, and dipping approval for Bush.
    By Brad Knickerbocker | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
    For the first time since the United States invaded Iraq a year ago, the nation is evenly divided over the war.
    That drop in support for war (to a 49-49 percent split) is a significant change from just two months ago when 65 percent of those polled by The Gallup Organization thought the war was worthwhile and 33 percent did not.
    There are several reasons for this watershed in public opinion: steadily rising US casualties (539 killed and 3,030 wounded at last count), the inability of US forces to prevent massive car-bomb attacks, an increasing portion of the public that does not feel particularly threatened despite color-coded terrorist alerts and the recent ricin episode on Capitol Hill, and growing concern about domestic issues. Recent polls, for example, show the economy to be just as much of a worry as the threat of terrorism - and in some cases, a bigger concern.
    So far, the chief stated reasons for invading Iraq - unconventional weapons on hair-trigger alert, a clear connection with Al Qaeda, the notion of Americans being welcomed as liberators, and the idea of Iraq as a pathway to Middle East peace - have not materialized in any clear way.
    "The overriding issue is the expectation-reality mismatch," says retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, who teaches at the National Defense University. "The war was supposed to be quick. We were supposed to be greeted as liberators. It was to pay for itself with oil revenues. And we were supposed to find chemical and biological weapons."
    Recent testimony by chief CIA weapons inspector David Kay and Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed the likelihood that no such weapons existed on the eve of the US invasion.
    "It is clear that Kay's comments have had a profound effect on public opinion," says Daniel Goure, national security expert with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "Americans want to be winners, but they also want to be right," he continues. "There is a sense that we were wrong."
    Not surprisingly in a presidential election year, President Bush's political opponents are encouraging this change in public opinion.
    But not all criticism of administration assertions on Iraq is from the left.
    Conservative broadcaster Bill O'Reilly this week said he had been wrong to accept official claims that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction. "I think all Americans should be concerned about this," said Mr. O'Reilly of Fox News, who pronounced himself "much more skeptical about the Bush administration now."
    Added to this, the White House appears not to have scored as highly as it hoped to by agreeing to the hour-long live interview in the Oval Office, broadcast last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
    Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan, described Bush's interview as "not impressive." "He did not seem prepared," Ms. Noonan wrote on the Wall Street Journal website. "He seemed in some way disconnected from the event."
    Given the diplomatic run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, the lack of formal United Nations approval, and the opposition of many traditional allies, the year-long war - with its mounting US casualties and slow pace of rebuilding - is seen by many Americans as primarily Mr. Bush's responsibility. His casting himself as the "war president" reinforces that image. Questions about his National Guard service some 30 years ago may be detracting from his image as Commander in Chief and thereby weakening public support for the war as well.
    So when Bush's political standing begins to dip, it's logical that support for the war - which peaked at 76 percent when Baghdad fell last April - might wane as well.
    Two polls last week may indicate this: A Newsweek poll had Bush's approval rating down to 48 percent. A simultaneous Associated Press/Ipsos poll showed just 44 percent of respondents believing the country is headed in the right direction, with 52 percent saying it's on the wrong track. A Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll completed this week gives Bush a moderately positive reading - 53.5 - in its presidential leadership index, but well below the 58.8 mark he enjoyed after Mr. Hussein's capture.
    The unusually high number of National Guard and Reserve troops now on active duty - and growing concern of family and friends - adds to public discontent about the war. "Many service members signed up for the duration of the peace, and now find themselves in a war with no end in sight," says John Pike, director of
    Thirty-five years ago growing opposition to the Vietnam War caused significant changes in US policy there. And public opinion today may be having a similar impact.
    "The political problems caused by the war and casualties in Iraq have already had their biggest impact on conduct of the war: abandonment by President Bush of the neoconservative goal of reshaping the Middle East through running Iraq for several years," says Marcus Corbin of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "The turnover of some authority to Iraqis in June may or may not lead to a rapid reduction in US influence and troops in Iraq, but it certainly signals the end of the neoconservative dream."
    "We have guided missiles and misguided men."
    - Martin Luther King, Jr
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    Iraq arms hunt in doubt in '02
    Fri Feb 13, 6:21 AM ET

    A classified U.S. intelligence study done three months before the war in Iraq predicted a problem now confronting the Bush administration: the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction might never be found.

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