WASHINGTON (AP) – Public approval for President Bush and Congress has fallen to the lowest levels in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

With the Iraq war dragging on and recession fears mounting, only 31 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job Bush is doing, according to the poll released Thursday.

His lowest previous approval in the survey was 32 percent – a virtual tie with the new reading – and that rating was recorded several times, most recently in June.

Only 69 percent of Republicans voiced approval of Bush, about the same as in recent months but still an anemic showing for a president within his own party. Only 29 percent from the GOP said they strongly approve of the job he is doing.

Just 7 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents gave positive marks to Bush’s work.

Congress’ performance was approved by just 22 percent, continuing a steady decline since Democrats took over in January. With lawmakers unable to force Bush to pull large numbers of troops from Iraq, just one-quarter of Democrats gave a thumbs-up to Congress’ work, about where they have been for months, compared with one-fifth of Republicans and independents.

Congress’ lowest approval reading in the poll had been 24 percent, most recently in July. Its popularity often lags behind the president’s because of public distaste toward the institution itself, and people often have far more positive feelings about their own representatives and senators.

The poll highlighted public discontent with Bush on issues across the board as well as a dour public mood that could signal an uphill fight for the GOP in next year’s elections.

A record low 34 percent said they approved of his handling of the economy, battered by a major credit crunch and a feeble housing market. His prior low in the poll in that area was 37 percent.

Bush also hit a new low with 31 percent approving of his work on domestic issues such as health care, just below June’s 32 percent. The latest poll was taken as the president was about to veto a measure adding $35 billion to children’s health coverage.

Twenty-nine percent approved of how Bush is handling Iraq, a slight dip from last month’s 33 percent and virtually even with the record-low of 27 percent last December. Bush last month approved a plan to gradually reduce the number of troops in Iraq from more than 160,000 to just above the 130,000 who were there when this year’s force build up began.

On foreign affairs and terrorism, 36 percent approved, just below September’s 40 percent measure and about tied with the 35 percent low point he hit in December.

In a gauge of the public’s grim mood, just 26 percent said they think the country is heading in the right direction, about where it has been stuck since late last year. Only 43 percent of Republicans, and less than 20 percent of Democrats and independents, said they think things are going well.

Ominously for Republicans, just 25 percent of moderates and 38 percent of conservatives are satisfied with the country’s direction.

AP-Ipsos polling began in December 2003.

President Truman’s approval ratings of 23 percent in both 1951 and 1952 were the lowest ever recorded by the Gallup Poll. Congress’ Gallup Poll low was 18 percent in 1992.

The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted from Oct. 1-3 and involved telephone interviews with 1,005 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey included interviews with 489 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points; 366 Republicans, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points; and 150 independents, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 8 percentage points.


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