Americans seem sour on the state of the union in advance of President Bush’s address on the subject. A poll finds most believe the country is on the wrong track — a complete flip from five years ago.
Most people also are not confident that Bush and the Democrats who now control Congress and share responsibility with him for running the country can work together to solve its problems, an Associated Press-AOL News poll finds.
At the same time, Americans see the president as likable, decisive and strong Ã¢â‚¬â€ but also stubborn. And only a minority think he is honest Ã¢â‚¬â€ 44 percent, down from 53 percent two years ago.
Bush delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night, nearly two weeks after he told the nation he is sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq in a new effort to end violence there.
The White House says the speech will focus on a few issues, energy and health care among them, on which Bush might be able to reach agreement with Democrats, who control the House and Senate for the first time during his two-term presidency.
Two-thirds of Americans, 66 percent, think the country is on the wrong track. That’s about the same as a year ago, when 65 percent thought so, the poll found.
That’s a stark reversal from mid-January 2002, when 68 percent said the country was on the right track and 29 percent said it was not. Then, the nation was still coming to grips with the terrorist strikes four months earlier on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people. And, U.S. troops Bush sent to Afghanistan had toppled the Taliban government that harbored the terrorists believed responsible.
After the U.S. led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, public support for the mission there began to slide as the war continued, the U.S. death toll climbed and the violence raged on.
John Raab, 77, of Allentown, Pa., a conservative Republican, said the United States can change course “if people rally around the president and he can get this fiasco in Iraq under control.”
Kerry Moore-O’Leary, a 31-year-old Democrat from Boston, said it will take new leadership.
“I really think the only time we are going to see some real changes is when we elect a new president,” she said. “Even people who are moderate Republicans are going to say that we need someone who’s a breath of fresh air.”
Lawmakers in both political parties have promised more bipartisanship and comity since the November elections, when voters took away the reins of Congress from Bush’s Republican Party.
But the public appears largely skeptical of those pledges.
Nearly two-thirds, 60 percent, have no confidence that the political institutions at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue can work together to solve the nation’s problems. Overall, the public has grown less confident since the days after the election when nearly half, 47 percent, expressed confidence that Bush and Congress could work together.
Four in 10, or 42 percent, think the country will now be better off with Democrats controlling Congress, while 18 percent think it will be worse off. Thirty-nine percent think it won’t make much difference.
Iraq remains the public’s top concern, with 65 percent disapproving of Bush’s handling of the situation.
Support for sending more troops to Iraq grew slightly after Bush’s speech, although the idea is still unpopular.
Almost one-third of the public Ã¢â‚¬â€ 31 percent Ã¢â‚¬â€ favor the plan, an improvement from 26 percent in a survey done almost entirely before he spoke to the country Jan. 10. Thirty-five percent now believe additional troops will help stabilize the situation in Iraq, also up from 25 percent.
Bush’s overall approval rating inched upward to 36 percent, from 32 percent early in the month. Despite that low score, 53 percent of Americans say he is likable; 58 percent, decisive; and 58 percent, strong.
In the eyes of 83 percent of Americans, he also is stubborn.
“Mainly it’s his ‘stay the course’ attitude,” said Bill Basher, 21, a Republican from Angola, N.Y.
In other survey findings:
- Americans rated health care, the economy and Iraq and terrorism the issues they care about most. When asked to choose the issue most important to them personally, 24 percent named Iraq, the top choice.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the first woman in that office, scored a job approval rating of 51 percent, significantly higher than that of Congress, at 34 percent approval.
The telephone poll of 1,005 adults was conducted Jan. 16-18 by Ipsos, an international polling firm. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.
Copyright Ã‚Â© 2007 The Associated Press