Field Poll: Bush approval rating drops to 32 percent

by Clea Benson

President Bush's approval ratings have continued to reach new lows among California voters, according to a new Field Poll.

The survey found voters' sour mood extended to Congress, which had an even lower approval rating than the president. And those surveyed gave the most pessimistic assessment of the country's general direction than any recorded since 1992.

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said it was unusual for voters to express such a dismal view of the president, Congress and the nation's direction at the same time.

"That doesn't portend well for perceptions of leadership in government," DiCamillo said.

Bush's approval ratings have been on a slide in California for two years. The latest survey, taken during the first week of April, found that his approval rating had slipped to 32 percent, down from 38 percent in February. An additional 62 percent of voters said they did not like the job the president was doing, up from 56 percent in February. Six percent said they had no opinion.

The Field Poll's April presidential approval ratings are the lowest since the president's father, the first President Bush, garnered only 37 percent approval among California voters in 1992, DiCamillo said. President Nixon scored the all-time lowest approval rating among California voters - 24 percent - during the Watergate scandal in 1974.

Meanwhile, the survey found voters were even less pleased with Congress. Congressional approval ratings dropped to 24 percent, down from 33 percent in August 2004.

Of those surveyed, 64 percent said the country was on the wrong track, up from 55 percent two months ago. That's a more pessimistic outlook than any registered by the Field Poll since the first Bush administration in 1992, the year after the first war in Iraq, when 82 percent of voters felt things were not going well.

For this President Bush, DiCamillo said, the current war in Iraq is also sapping support.

"Events in Iraq would need to improve for the president's ratings to start climbing back," DiCamillo said. "There's limited control that the president has over events in Iraq, yet he still says the U.S. is going to stay there for as long as is necessary."

Some voters who were surveyed said their disaffection had more to do with the president's general outlook than with the war in particular.

Sacramento lawyer Philip Cozens, 53, a Republican who described himself as a "militant moderate," said he is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the president's - and the Republican Party's - views on social issues such as abortion, gun control and school funding.

"I've voted Republican all my life, but now I'm becoming increasingly disenchanted with the party because of its rightist tendencies," Cozens said. "The Republicans are becoming more extremist."

Democrat Georgianna Summers, 77, of Butte County said she was pleased by the news that the president's ratings were dropping.

"The lower it gets, I'm glad," she said. "I was born during the Depression, and with all the stuff we have been through since the Depression, I think this is the most dangerous time we have ever lived in. The administration we have is affecting the future so much, in terms of the environment, in terms of the huge debt we're leaving our children."


About the writer:
The Bee's Clea Benson can be reached at (916) 326-5533 or cbenson@sacbee.com.