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Bush approval rating at 40 percent

Majority disapprove of the handling of Katrina, Iraq

In a televised addressThursday, President Bush pledged to rebuild the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast.



• Rebuilding: Vital signs
• Gallery: Landmarks over time
• Storm & Flood: Making history
• I-Report: Share your photos


New Orleans (Louisiana)
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's vow to rebuild the Gulf Coast did little to help his standing with the public, only 40 percent of whom now approve of his performance in office, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Just 41 percent of the 818 adults polled between Friday and Monday said they approved of Bush's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while 57 percent disapproved.

And support for his management of the war in Iraq has dropped to 32 percent, with 67 percent telling pollsters they disapproved of how Bush is prosecuting the conflict.

The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Fifty-nine percent said they considered the 2003 invasion of Iraq a mistake. That figure is the highest recorded in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Only 39 percent said the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. Sixty-three percent said they wanted to see some or all U.S. troops withdrawn from that country.

Just 35 percent of those polled approved of Bush's handling of the economy, with 63 percent saying they disapproved.

Bush's overall job approval number was 40 percent, with 58 percent of those surveyed telling pollsters they disapproved of his performance in office. It is the second time his approval rating has hit that low a mark.

His personal qualities hit fresh lows: Only 49 percent called him a strong and decisive leader, down from 54 percent in July and 51 percent in August. Just 42 percent said he cares about people like themselves, and 47 percent called him honest and trustworthy.

By contrast, 51 percent did not consider him strong and decisive, 50 percent would not call him honest and 56 percent said he didn't care about people like them.

The poll did contain one bright spot for Bush, as 60 percent of those surveyed supported the confirmation of John Roberts, his pick for chief justice of the United States. Just 26 percent opposed Roberts' confirmation, while 14 percent had no opinion.

New Orleans speech

In a nationally televised speech Thursday from New Orleans' Jackson Square, Bush pledged to put the full might and money of the federal government behind the rebuilding of the hurricane-stricken region

He also vowed to find out what went wrong during the disaster response so that it never happens again.

He said the federal government will cover the "great majority" of the costs of reconstruction, estimated at $150 billion and up.

And he conceded that the response to the disaster overwhelmed "every level of government" in the days following the hurricane.

But only 25 percent of those polled said they had great confidence in his administration's ability to rebuild the city and other Gulf Coast communities battered by Katrina, which slammed ashore August 29.

Another 43 percent said they had a moderate amount of confidence in the administration, 21 percent said they had little confidence and 10 percent said they had none.

Nearly 900 deaths have been blamed on Katrina, which struck near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line.

The chaotic response and sharp criticism of federal authorities prompted the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown and raised fears that the federal response to a major terrorist attack would be equally disorganized.

Fifty percent of those polled said they feared the federal government would spend too much on reconstruction.

Forty-five percent said Americans should make "major sacrifices" to pay for the effort, but only 20 percent said they would be willing to make those sacrifices themselves.

Seventeen percent said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to support reconstruction efforts, and 15 percent favored financing the cost with more deficit spending. Six percent said they would pay for reconstruction efforts with cuts in domestic spending.

War spending

Fifty-four percent told pollsters they would cut spending for the war in Iraq to pay for disaster relief.

Thirty percent favored a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and slightly more -- 33 percent -- said they would support a partial withdrawal.

Only 26 percent said they wanted to keep the number of troops at the current level of 138,000, and 8 percent said they wanted to see more troops deployed there.

A U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on the contention that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions and could have provided those weapons to terrorists.

No such weapons were found after Saddam's ouster, though a U.S. probe found Baghdad concealed some weapons-related research from U.N. inspectors.

Nearly 1,900 U.S. troops and an estimated tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed since the invasion.

The Bush administration now says U.S. troops are needed to secure the establishment of a democratic government in Iraq.

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