Bush’s poll numbers back up slightly

After months of sagging poll numbers, President George W. Bush’s approval rating improved last month as Americans grew more positive about the economy amid lingering doubts about the war in Iraq, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted December 2-6, showed Bush’s approval rating at 40 percent up from 35 percent in October, the lowest of his presidency, The New York Times reported.

The poll showed 56 percent of respondents described the economy as good, up from 47 percent a month earlier. Thirty-eight percent said they approved of Bush’s handling of the economy up from 34 percent in the previous survey, The New York Times said.

Despite the improvement on his economic numbers, Bush’s presidency remains plagued by widespread doubts about his handling of the war in Iraq, the newspaper said.

Most of those surveyed still said the war is going badly and a majority, 58 percent, said they want the United States to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Bush has rejected setting a timetable for a withdrawal, saying it would encourage the Iraqi insurgency and would be a victory for al Qaeda.

His administration has recently gone on the offensive against critics who say it does not have a clear strategy for winning in Iraq.

Despite Bush’s recent efforts to explain his Iraq policy, 61 percent of the poll respondents said the administration has still not clearly explained what the U.S. goals are in Iraq. Sixty-eight percent said they don’t believe Bush has a plan for victory, compared to 25 percent.

Americans say overwhelmingly they are still waiting to hear the Bush Administration clearly articulate its goals in Iraq and a strategy for victory, and it is the war that motivates most Americans who disapprove of how Bush is doing his job.

According to the survey, 53 percent say the war is the single biggest reason why they disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.

This poll of 1,155 people has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.