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Poll: Bush's unpopularity could hurt GOP candidates

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President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday during a surprise visit to Baghdad.

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Opinion Research Corporation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's continued unpopularity could present a challenge for Republican candidates in this fall's mid-term elections, according to a new CNN poll released Friday.

The poll results weren't all bad news for Bush. After his surprise visit to Baghdad, Americans were slightly less critical of his handling of the war in Iraq, but his overall job approval rating hasn't budged, the poll shows.

When registered voters polled were asked if they were more or less likely to vote for a candidate Bush supported, 47 percent said they were less likely, while only 27 percent said they were more likely. Twenty percent said it made no difference. The sampling error for the question was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

However, the poll showed that Democrats have so far not been able to capitalize on Bush's political difficulties.

When voters were asked which party would be their choice for Congress in November, 45 percent said Democrat and 38 percent Republican. Twelve percent were unsure. However, in May, Democrats captured 52 percent in the same generic ballot question, showing their support had dropped 7 points in a month. (View the latest poll results)

The level of Republican support was unchanged, indicating voters had moved from the Democratic column to unsure.

In the poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday by Opinion Research Corp., the president's overall job approval rating was at 37 percent. In May, before his trip to Baghdad, it was virtually the same: 36 percent.

However, Bush's approval number has risen since late April, when it was just 32 percent. And there was some post-Baghdad movement when it came to the question of whether Americans approve of how he is handing the situation in Iraq.

In May 34 percent approved and 62 percent disapproved, a gap of 28 percentage points. But in the latest poll, 39 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved, just a 15-point gap. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Still, most Americans remain pessimistic about the Iraq war. The poll found 54 percent opposed to the war with only 38 percent in favor, and 55 percent thought things were going badly as opposed to 41 percent who said they thought the situation in Iraq was going well.

Asked if the Iraqi government would be strong enough a year from now to keep order without U.S. troops, 48 percent said it wouldn't be strong enough, while only 30 percent thought it would be and 22 percent were unsure.

However, poll respondents were more optimistic about the long term. Fifty percent said they thought the Iraqi government would be strong enough to keep order a few years from now, while 33 percent said it would not be and 17 percent were unsure. The sampling error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

A majority of those polled, 53 percent, said the United States should set a timetable from withdrawing from Iraq; 41 percent were opposed. However, respondents were split down the middle when asked whether a withdrawal should take place within one year, with 47 percent in favor and 47 percent either opposing any timetable at all or opting for a longer time frame.

Two-thirds of those polled were opposed to withdrawing within six months, as some Democrats in Congress have proposed. Only 28 percent wanted to withdraw that quickly. (Full story: House rejects Iraq timeline)

The sampling error on the timetable question was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Approval of Bush's handling of terrorism and the economy also rose slightly in the past month, while his numbers remained virtually unchanged on immigration. On terrorism, 49 percent approved of his performance; on the economy, the number was 36 percent; on immigration, 33 percent.

The poll also found that a slight majority of those polled, 51 percent, thought economic conditions today are good, while 47 percent thought they are poor, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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