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Poll: Iraq keeping Bush approval down

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Discontent over the war in Iraq continues to hurt President Bush's approval ratings.

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Opinion Research Corporation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Disapproval of the war in Iraq appears to be driving the public's low opinion of President Bush's job performance, according to a CNN poll by Opinion Research Corp. released Monday.

The poll, based on interviews of 1,021 adults between Friday and Sunday, found Bush's approval rating was 34 percent -- an uptick of 2 percentage points from the most recent CNN poll in late April.

The president's disapproval rating was 58 percent, down 2 points from the previous poll. Both shifts are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. (View Bush's latest approval numbers)

More than half those who disapproved of Bush's job performance -- 56 percent -- said the war in Iraq was the reason. (Read the full poll results -- PDF)

Thirteen percent said the recent increase in gas prices had fueled their displeasure. Twenty-six percent gave other reasons.

Because that question was asked only of those who disapproved, it had a different sampling error -- 4 percentage points.

On the question of how the United States has handled the situation in Iraq the past few months, 34 percent expressed disapproval.

Thirty-nine percent told pollsters they still agreed with the U.S. decision to launch the invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

A third -- 33 percent -- of respondents said they believed the war in Iraq has made Americans safer from terrorism, and 53 percent said they didn't think it has.

Before the war, Bush argued the invasion was necessary because Iraq had been concealing chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and a nuclear weapons program from U.N. inspectors and could have provided those weapons to terrorists.

U.S. inspectors later concluded Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs while under U.N. sanctions that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War, though Iraqi scientists had tried to conceal some weapons-related research from the United Nations.

The president says the 130,000-plus American troops still in Iraq must remain there to provide security for Iraq's fledgling democracy from an insurgency that spread after Hussein's government fell in April 2003. More than 2,400 American troops have died in Iraq since the invasion.

On the question of rising gas prices, 65 percent of those surveyed said the situation had caused hardship for themselves or their families.

On a separate question, 21 percent said the price spike had caused enough difficulty to undercut their living standards.

Sixty-one percent said they expect fuel prices to continue to rise in the next six months, while 25 percent said they believe prices will stabilize and 10 percent said they believed they would drop.

And 70 percent said they believe Bush could take steps now to reduce the cost of gasoline; 24 percent disagreed.

With crude oil prices running at or above $70 a barrel in recent weeks, Bush announced in April he would halt new deposits into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve until after the summer driving season.

Senate Republicans proposed a $100 gas-tax rebate last month, but the proposal was widely mocked by Democratic lawmakers and some Republican leaders.

Democrats proposed rolling back tax breaks for energy companies that the GOP-led Congress passed in 2005, suspending federal gasoline taxes for two months and promoting alternative fuels and conservation.

Industry analysts blame the recent spike in fuel prices on increased demand for crude oil, as developing countries like China and India use more.

They also blame retooling delays as refiners switch fuel additives from MTBE, which U.S. environmental regulators consider a possible carcinogen, to ethanol.

Forty-nine percent of those polled said higher gas prices had spurred them to cut back on their spending, and 50 percent said they had not changed their spending habits.

In another question, 59 percent said they had cut back on their driving because of gas prices; 39 percent said they had not.

Sixty percent said they have considered buying a more fuel-efficient car because of the fuel prices.

A total of 61 percent blamed "unethical behavior" by people involved in the production of oil and gas for the price increases, which have driven the average U.S. price for self-serve regular gasoline to nearly $3 a gallon.

Another 26 percent said the market forces of supply and demand were responsible.

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