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Poll appears to reflect partisan viewing

46 percent of speech watchers choose 'very positive' response


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George W. Bush

(CNN) -- A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Americans who watched President Bush's Iraq speech Tuesday night showed that 46 percent had a "very positive" reaction to what they heard.

The poll was taken immediately after the speech, and the 323 adults interviewed were 50 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Another 28 percent said they were "somewhat positive" about what they heard, and 26 percent said they had a "negative" reaction.

"It's difficult to tell from these poll results how the speech will affect general U.S. public," said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

"Many Americans did not watch the speech. Those who did were 2-to-1 Republican, so most were arguably already in the president's camp."

The percentage of those with a "very positive" reaction was down from the 60 percent expressing the same sentiment in a similar poll taken immediately after Bush's State of the Union speech in February.

The figure also was down from the 67 percent in a similar poll who responded that way to the president's "mission accomplished" speech May 1, 2003 -- two months after the war began.

That was the speech -- delivered under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln -- in which Bush declared, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Since that speech, 1,601 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, according to the Pentagon, and as of Tuesday the overall total stood at 1,741.

All three polls were taken immediately after each speech and interviewed only those who watched the delivery.

Tuesday night's poll comes the day after a much larger CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll reported just 40 percent of those responding said they approved of Bush's handling of the war and that 58 percent said they disapproved. (Full story)

The same survey also found that 53 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's performance in general, the highest level of his presidency, compared to 45 percent who approved. (Full story)

Respondents in Tuesday night's poll also were asked three follow-up questions to ones put to them June 24-27.

Bush picked up some apparent support on the question of who is winning the war -- the U.S.-led coalition or the insurgents. Before the speech, 44 percent saw the United States winning; afterward that increased to 54 percent.

The president likewise picked up some support on the question of whether he has a clear plan in Iraq -- going from a 56 percent positive response before the speech to 63 percent afterward.

Bush was adamant that it would be wrong to set a timetable for withdrawing troops in Iraq, and a majority of poll respondents seemed to agree.

On the question of whether it would be better to announce a timetable or to keep troops in the country until conditions improve even if that took years, 70 percent said they would prefer the latter. That compares with 58 percent who expressed that view before the speech.

Bush has long argued that the Iraq war is crucial to the greater war on terrorism, but that position did not fare well in the poll compared to two years ago.

Respondents were asked whether the Iraq war had made U.S. efforts against terrorism easier, tougher or made no difference.

In a similar poll immediately after Bush's "mission accomplished" speech, 75 percent of respondents said the Iraq war had made things easier in the war on terrorism.

In Tuesday's poll, only 45 percent agreed with that view, and 37 percent said the war had made the greater terrorism effort tougher, up from 11 percent in the May 2003 poll.

Fourteen percent said the Iraq war has made no difference in the war on terrorism, down from 23 percent in the previous poll.

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