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Poll: Public split on Bush's handling of pressing problems

By Keating Holland
CNN Polling Director

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Most Americans think President Bush is doing a good job providing strong leadership for the country, but the public is split over whether he is paying enough attention to the country's most important problems, according to the results of a new CNN/Time poll of 1,031 Americans, conducted on May 23 and 24.

On energy in particular, only 38 percent say he is doing a good job.

Bush's ratings are higher on the economy, taxes, and world affairs (although only about half say he is doing a good job in each of those areas), and 52 percent approve of how he is handling his job overall. About half favor the tax cut now before Congress, but a plurality disapprove of Bush's energy plan announced last week.

Right now, only 43 percent say they are likely to vote for Bush if he runs for re-election in 2004; while half say they are unlikely to vote for him. Before Democrats start celebrating, it's worth pointing out that Bill Clinton had similar numbers at this point in his first term, and went on to a comfortable victory in 1996.

Bush also has some advantages Clinton did not have in May of 1993. Most Americans thought that Clinton wasn't paying enough attention to important problems in 1993 -- today the public is split over Bush.

Only 31 percent said that Clinton was a leader they could trust in May of 1993, while 45 percent say that about Bush today.

Note, however, that a majority say they have some doubts and reservations about Bush.

Who would Bush face in 2004? If Democrats were asked to choose their party's nominee today, 44 percent would prefer Al Gore, with Hillary Clinton finishing second.

The bottom line for Bush: the country appears about as divided as it was on Election Day last year, and although the public has a few doubts about him, Bush's personal qualities -- rather than his record on the issues -- may be keeping his approval rating above the crucial 50 percent mark.

CNN/TIME POLL
May 23-24

In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job as President?

Approve52%
Disapprove38
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

How do you think Bush is handling energy?

Good job38%
Poor job49
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Do you think President Bush is doing a good job or a poor job: (a) handling the economy (b) handling foreign policy (c) handling energy policy (d) handling taxes?

 Good
Job
Bad
Job
World affairs51%34%
Economy4941
Taxes4939
Energy3849
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

How do you think Bush is handling taxes?

Good job49%
Poor job39
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Based on what you have read or heard, do you favor or oppose the tax cut plan now before Congress?

Favor49%
Oppose37
Unsure14
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Do you think President Bush is doing a good job or a poor job providing strong leadership for the country?

Good job56%
Poor job36
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Has Bush paid enough attention to most important problems?

Yes46%
No49
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

So far, would you say George W. Bush has had the right priorities, or that he hasn't paid enough attention to the country's most important problems?

 YesNo
Bush now46%49%
Clinton in 19933756
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Based on what you have read or heard, do you favor or oppose President Bush's plan to deal with the country's current energy problems?

Favor38%
Oppose42
Unsure20
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Would you be likely to vote for Bush if he runs for re-election?

Yes43%
No50
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Would you be likely to Vote for Bush if he runs for re-election?

Very likely26%
Somewhat likely17
Somewhat unlikely8
Very unlikely42
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

If George W. Bush runs for re-election, how likely are you to vote for him -- very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?

 YesNo
Bush now43%50%
Clinton in 19934249
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Is Bush a leader you can trust?

Yes45%
Yes53
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Do you think George W. Bush is a leader you can trust, or do you have some doubts and reservations?

 YesNo
Bush now45%53%
Clinton in 19933164
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Democrats' choice for nominee in 2004

Al Gore44%
Hillary Clinton21
Joe Lieberman6
John Kerry5
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Thinking ahead to the year 2004 presidential election, if you were asked to vote for a Democratic nominee for President today, which of the following Democrats would you vote for?

Al Gore44%
Hillary Clinton21
Joe Lieberman6
John Kerry5
John Edwards4
Joe Biden3
Al Sharpton3
Evan Bayh2
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

The public's view of the economy may have turned a corner in the last few weeks. In March, nearly half of all Americans said a recession was likely in the next year. Now, only 36 percent forecast a recession. And although Americans don't feel as positive about the economy as they did at the start of the year, the drop in their ratings of the economy appears to have stopped.

In January, 82 percent said the economy was in good shape. By February, that had slid to 73 percent, and by March it had dropped another few points to 69 percent. But today's figures are almost identical to the March numbers, indicating that the public is no longer souring on the economy as it was at the start of the year. Optimism is also rebounding somewhat, with the number who say the economy will get better growing from 18 percent in January to 30 percent today.

During the next 12 months, do you think it is likely or unlikely that a recession will occur in this country?

 YesNo
Now36%58%
March4941
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Do you think economic conditions are good today?

Very good11%
Fairly good57
Poor30
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

Thinking about the economy, how would you describe economic conditions in the U.S. today as being very good, fairly good, poor, or very poor?

Now68%
March69
February73
January82
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

How do you think economic conditions will be a year from now?

Better30%
Worse26
Same40
Sampling error: +/-3% pts

During the next 12 months, do you think the economic conditions in this country will get better, get worse, or stay about the same?

 BetterWorse
Now30%26%
March2834
February2036
January1833
Sampling error: +/-3% pts







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