Sixty percent of all Americans strongly want the country to change direction after nearly seven years of President George W. Bush’s rule, according to a new opinion poll released late Sunday.

The survey by The Washington Post and ABC News indicated that only 24 percent of those surveyed think the nation is on the right track, and three-quarters said they want the next president to chart a different political course.

A new direction is wanted not only by Democrats, but also by three-quarters of Independents and even half of Republicans, according to the poll.

More than six in 10 called the war in Iraq not worth fighting, and nearly two-thirds gave the national economy negative marks.

Meanwhile, about seven in 10 see an economic recession as likely over the next year.

There is evidence in the new poll that the coming battle for the White House is shaping up to be another hard-fought, highly negative and closely decided contest, The Washington Post said.

At this point, Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, holds the edge in hypothetical match-ups with four of the top contenders for the Republican nomination.

But her margins are far from comfortable against the two best-known Republican candidates, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain, The Post said.

Not one of the leading candidates in either party has a favorable rating above 51 percent in the new poll.

Twenty-eight percent said they feel strongly favorable toward Clinton, but more than a third, 35 percent, have strongly negative views of her, the survey showed.

For the fourth consecutive month, President Bush’s approval rating remains at a career low, The Post said.

Thirty-three percent said they approve of the job he is doing, and 64 percent disapprove.

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