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Poll: Support for Bush, Iraq war dropping

Kerry leads Bush in matchups


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(CNN) -- As Americans express growing unease about Iraq, President Bush's job approval rating has taken a hit, according to a poll released Friday by CNN and Time magazine.

That development appears to be helping Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He wins the support of 51 percent of likely voters, compared to 46 percent for Bush. In February, Bush was ahead of Kerry by two percentage points.

If independent Ralph Nader is among the choices, Kerry gets 49 percent, Bush 44 percent and Nader 6 percent.

Bush's overall job approval rating fell from 49 percent to 46 percent since the last CNN/Time poll on April 8, while his disapproval rating rose from 47 percent to 49 percent -- the first time that more people disapproved of Bush's job performance than approved.

More people than not believe that going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do, but that number has declined to 48 percent in this poll, compared to 53 percent in April. And 56 percent of those polled say the war is not worth U.S. lives and other costs.

The poll was conducted by telephone Wednesday and Thursday, at a time when the scandal over the U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners was dominating news coverage, along with the beheading of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq.

The margin of error for the total sample of 1,001 adult Americans is 3.1 percentage points, but that margin varied for questions specifically asked of smaller groups, such as likely voters.

The prison abuse scandal stunned Americans, 27 percent of whom said it made them "less supportive" of the war in Iraq. And 55 percent of those polled said Bush is doing a poor job of handling Iraq, compared to 39 percent who said he was doing a good job.

But a majority of Americans expressed support for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- under fire for his handling of the abuse reports -- with 57 percent saying he should not resign.

On the question of the war, only 41 percent of those polled believe the United States is winning, although 60 percent said the country can win and 52 percent said the country will win.

Democrats were decidedly more pessimistic on the matter -- 65 percent said the United States is not winning the war, 44 percent said it can't win and 52 percent said it won't win.

Bush and Kerry

Kerry and Bush are essentially tied over who would handle Iraq better -- 46 percent to 43 percent.

Bush appears to have an advantage over Kerry on the war on terrorism with 49 percent saying he would do a better job, compared to 42 percent for Kerry. He also had the edge in "moral values" -- 46 percent to 42 percent.

On the question of who would do a better job, Kerry had big leads on health care, protecting the environment, reducing the deficit and reducing unemployment. He even did better than Bush on the question of taxes.

In the fight against terrorism -- one of Bush's strengths in many polls -- this poll showed a split over whether Bush is doing a good job. Forty-six of those polled said he was, but 47 percent said he was doing a poor job.

The poll also indicated that Bush's troubles may hurt the GOP in other races. On the generic ballot for congressional races, Democrats have a 13 point lead among likely voters.

Overall, those polled said they believed things are going well in the country, but they expressed growing concern about Bush.

Those with "doubts and reservations" about Bush's ability to lead the country rose from 55 percent to 59 percent while those who believe the president can be trusted as a leader dropped from 44 percent to 39 percent, since early February.

Abused prisoners

Fifty percent think there was a cover-up of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, although 63 percent said they believe it is limited to a "few individual soldiers."

Those participating in the poll want to see the soldiers court-martialed, but more -- 68 percent -- want to see their supervisors face the same procedure. And the sides are nearly even -- 45 percent saying yes and 44 percent saying no -- on whether the generals in charge of Iraq should face court-martial.

Regardless of who is responsible, the pollsters found that Americans don't want to see any more pictures of it -- 66 percent said no when asked if all other photographs should be released, while 30 percent said yes.

CNN's Keating Holland contributed to this report.


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