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Americans express worry, Bush support drops in poll
WASHINGTON — Americans are more dissatisfied with the nation's direction than at any time in more than eight years and President Bush's job approval rating has sunk into a tie for his worst-ever showing, according to a new Gallup Poll.

The poll, released Thursday, indicates 62% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. That is the highest dissatisfaction number since early January 1996 — shortly after the federal government shut down briefly when Congress failed to reach a budget agreement. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.

A Gallup survey in early April indicated 57% of Americans were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country and 41% were satisfied. The job dissatisfaction numbers have been on the rise since early this year.

The survey comes as Bush deals with a growing controversy over reports of American abuse of Iraqi prisoners. In interviews Wednesday with two Arab television networks, Bush promised a full investigation of the reports.

"People in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent. They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know," the president told the Al-Hurra network.

In the survey, 49% of Americans said they approved of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 48% said they disapproved. The approval number ties the lowest figure Bush has reached in his president, and the disapproval number ties the highest figure.

Bush's job approval rating has moved in a narrow range of between 53% and 49% since mid-January. His highest rating — 90% — was reached just after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The poll also indicated that Democrat John Kerry, Bush's chief rival in the 2004 presidential election, has moved into a statistical tie with the president for public support. In a two-way race, Kerry drew 49% of the support of likely voters and Bush drew 48% — within the poll's margin of error of 4 percentage points. In a three-way race with independent Ralph Nader, both Kerry and Bush drew 47%, with Nader receiving 3%.

It is the first time since early March — when the president began a massive advertising campaign — that Bush has not led the race, according to the poll. In mid-April, 50% of likely voters favored Bush, 44% favored Kerry and 4% favored Nader.

The survey also indicated:

• Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy and 41% approve. That is the highest disapproval number and lowest approval number of the Bush presidency.

• Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and 42% approve. Again, the approval number is the lowest and the disapproval number is the highest of any survey Gallup has taken on the question, dating back to late October 2002. On foreign affairs overall, Bush gets 42% approval and 53% disapproval — again, a record low on approval and a record high on disapproval.

• A majority of Americans — 52% — still approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism. However, that is the lowest figure since Gallup began asking the question in November 2001, and a 45% disapproval rating is the highest such number.

The survey was conducted Monday through Wednesday among 1,000 U.S. adults. The margin of error varied between 3 and 5 percentage points, depending on the question.

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