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Bush approval rating moves back up

Clark front-runner among Democrats

From Keating Holland
CNN Political Unit

Clark front-runner among Democrats

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George Bush
Presidential Election

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's approval rating -- which had declined in recent weeks -- moved back up, primarily due to big gains among men and among high-income Americans, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

A majority of registered voters say that Bush deserves to be re-elected, but only 38 percent of voters say they will definitely vote for Bush, according to the poll. With exactly the same number saying they would vote against Bush, the battle for the swing voters in the middle seems more important than ever.

In recent weeks, Bush's approval rating had slid as Democrats, particularly those seeking their party's 2004 presidential nomination, stepped up their rhetorical attacks on Bush's Iraq policy and his stewardship of the economy.

In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in late August, Bush's approval rating stood at 59 percent. One month later, it slid to 50 percent. This latest poll has Bush's approval rating at 56 percent.

Administration figures are taking part in an aggressive public relations effort explaining the Iraq policy, and Bush is speaking out more on the economy.

Bush's increasing approval rating comes along with a reminder that although economic conditions may not be in great shape, the public is not as pessimistic about the economy as they were in 1991, when Bush's father was gearing up for his unsuccessful re-election bid.

Clark front-runner among Democrats

Today, 44 percent say the economy is in good shape -- up seven points since March -- and nearly two-thirds say that the economy will be in good shape a year from now. Americans, however, are in an angry mood -- much angrier the past few years -- and who knows who they may take it out on?

Retired general and former CNN consultant Wesley Clark remains at the top of the list of Democrats vying to replace Bush, with five Democrats in double digits and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards possibly getting a delayed announcement bounce as he rose from 2 percent to 6 percent.

Most Americans want a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of a CIA operative's identity, and while most are bothered by the leak, only 36 percent are bothered a great deal. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld posts a 58 percent approval rating -- not bad, but down significantly from his wartime 71 percent mark.

The poll was based on interviews with 1,004 adult Americans, including 870 registered voters and 456 registered Democrats, and was conducted by telephone between October 10, 2003 and October 12, 2003.

The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. That margin is slightly higher for subset groups within the poll.

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