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Bush's approval rating near his record low

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Approval of President Bush's performance is near all-time lows for his presidency.

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George W. Bush
United States
Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's approval rating is mired near its record low amid concerns about his ability to manage the government and pessimism over the war in Iraq, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.

The poll, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, found Bush's approval rating at 38 percent -- down a percentage point from a mid-February survey and just a point above his record low of 37 percent in November. His disapproval rating was 60 percent, tying November's worst-ever mark.

Of the 1,020 adults surveyed, 59 percent of those interviewed said Bush can't manage the government effectively, and 58 percent said he is not paying enough attention to what his administration is doing. (Interactive: Bush approval ratings)

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they consider Bush a strong leader, the poll found. But only 47 percent said they consider him honest and trustworthy, and 73 percent said they believe big business has too much of an influence over his administration. (Read full poll results -- PDF)

The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Weakness on terrorism, Iraq

One of the pillars of Bush's presidency -- public support for his handling of the war on terrorism -- showed signs of weakening in the latest poll. Only 47 percent of respondents said they approve of how Bush is handling U.S. efforts to battle terrorism, down from 54 percent in a poll taken February 9-12.

That drop comes just a few weeks after the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, announced that Republicans would make national security the centerpiece of their midterm election campaigns.

On the economy, 40 percent of those questioned said they approve of Bush's policies, while 57 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove. On health care, his approval rating is 30 percent, while 63 percent disapprove.

And Bush's handling of the nearly 3-year-old war in Iraq drew the support of just 35 percent of those polled, while 64 percent said they disapprove.

Top administration officials had touted the December elections there as a mark of success. But the permanent parliament elected in that balloting has yet to convene, and the Feb. 22 bombing of a major Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra has left the country teetering on the brink of a civil war along sectarian lines.

Seventy-three percent of those polled said they believe a civil war is likely in Iraq within the year, while only 20 percent said such a conflict could be avoided. And only 44 percent said they believe the United States will win the conflict there -- down from 49 percent in a December poll.

The number of Americans who believe the United States will lose the conflict rose from 47 percent in December to 52 percent in this week's poll. And 55 percent said they believe the U.S. invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 was a mistake.

Nine percent of those polled said the United States needs more troops in Iraq. Another 23 percent said the number of troops, now about 130,000, should remain the same.

But 38 percent said some of the troops should come home, and another 27 percent said all American troops should be withdrawn.

Skepticism over port deal

The poll results indicate that the controversy over a merger that would place a Dubai-based company in control of cargo terminals at several U.S. seaports is not yet taking a bite out of Bush's ratings, despite broad opposition to the deal.

The survey found that 45 percent of Americans strongly oppose Dubai Ports World's purchase of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, the British-based company that now runs those terminals. Another 21 percent expressed moderate opposition, and 75 percent said they believe the deal would pose a threat to U.S. security.

DP World is a state-run venture of the United Arab Emirates. But the poll found the American public also would oppose the sale if the company were based in China, France or another Arab country.

However, about 70 percent of the Americans polled had no problem with British companies managing operations at U.S. ports.

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