Dubya’s poll ratings go into free fall

    President Bush’s approval rating slipped to a new low in the latest national survey with pollsters suggesting federal government intervention in the Terri Schiavo controversy may have been a factor along with growing concern about the economy.

    The USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey released on Friday found 45 percent of the 1,001 adults surveyed Monday through Wednesday thought Bush was doing a good job, compared with 52 percent during three previous surveys in late February and early March.

    The president’s previous low since taking office in January 2001 was 46 percent in May 2004.

    Bush’s involvement in the Schiavo case in Florida “may be a major cause” for the 7-point drop, the Gallup Organization said.

    Bush broke off his Texas vacation to sign emergency legislation on Monday that permitted federal courts to consider appeals by Schiavo’s parents to force the reconnection of a feeding tube to prolong the life of the brain-damaged woman.

    The tube was removed on March 18 with the permission of Schiavo’s husband, who has been waging a long legal battle with his wife’s family over whether the 41-year-old woman should be allowed to die.

    So far, appeals by Schiavo’s parents have failed. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on Thursday.

    Separate polls by the Gallup organization, ABC News and CBS News in recent days showed large majorities of Americans were opposed to the congressional and presidential intervention in the Schiavo controversy.

    Also possibly weighing on Bush’s ratings slide is concern about the economy with new emphasis on rising fuel costs.

    Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed believed the economy was getting worse, up 9 points from earlier this month. The overall figure is Bush’s worst negative figure on the economy in two years.

    Seventeen percent cited rising fuel costs as the most important economic problem facing the country, up from 5 percent a month ago.

    Rising crude oil costs helped to push the national price for gasoline to a record $2.11 a gallon this week.