Following Clarke’s Testimony at 9-11 Hearings, Approval of Bush’s Hand…

Following Clarke’s Testimony at 9-11 Hearings, Approval of Bush’s Handling of
Terrorism and Homeland Security Drops Eight Points to 57 Percent

Sixty-Five Percent Say Clarke’s Testimony Hasn’t Affected Their Opinion of
Bush; Fifty Percent Say Clarke’s Motivations Personal, Political

Sixty-Five Percent Say Clinton Administration Did Not Take Global Terror
Threat Seriously Enough

Following former counterterrorism chief
Richard Clarke’s claims at the 9-11 Commission hearings that the Bush
administration did not do all it could to fight terrorism, voter approval of
President George W. Bush’s handling of terrorism and homeland security has
dropped significantly to 57 percent from 65 percent in a Feb 19-20 Newsweek
poll (38% disapprove). Nonetheless, a majority (65%) says Clarke’s testimony
has not affected their opinion of Bush (17% say it has made them less
favorable towards Bush, 10% say more favorable). Half (50%) of those polled
say they think Clarke is motivated by personal and political reasons, while 25
percent say he’s a dedicated public servant. Fifty percent say they have paid
a lot of (25%) or some (25%) attention to Clarke’s testimony, 44 percent say
they haven’t paid too much attention.

A strong majority (65%) of Americans say former President Bill Clinton and
his administration did not take the threat of global terrorism seriously
enough (26% disagree), while a majority (61%) of Americans say President
George W. Bush and his administration have taken the threat as seriously as
they should have (34% disagree). Forty-three percent say both administrations
are equally to blame for not preventing the September 11 attacks (24% say the
Clinton administration is more to blame, 17% say the Bush administration).
Almost half (44%) of those polled say Bush should testify before the 9-11
Commission in public (16% say in private, 37% say it doesn’t make a
difference); 47 percent say Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice
should testify in public (13% say in private, 36% says it makes no

Meanwhile, almost half of those polled (47%) say the attention the Bush
administration has given to Iraq has not seriously distracted from the
administration’s efforts to fight terrorism (42% disagree). But Americans are
almost evenly split on whether the administration has done all it can to fight
terror (46% agree, 43% disagree). A majority (55%) says the U.S. did the right
thing in taking military action against Iraq (41% disagree), but 41 percent
say it has done more to increase the risk that large numbers of Americans will
be killed in a future terrorist attack (up significantly from 36% in last
week’s poll); 25 percent say it has done more to decrease the risk of attack,
27 percent say it has made no difference.

Turning to this year’s presidential race, if the election were held today,
Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry would narrowly defeat President
George W. Bush in a two-way match-up by 48 percent to 47 percent among
registered voters, but with a margin of error of three percentage points, the
result is a statistical dead-heat. In last week’s poll, Kerry and Bush were
tied at 48 percent each. In a three-way match-up with Independent Ralph
Nader, Bush would defeat Kerry by 45 percent to 43 percent (Nader would get 5%
of the vote), again representing a statistical tie.

Bush’s approval rating has risen slightly to 49% from 48% in last week’s
Newsweek poll (45% disapprove), while less than half (45%) of registered
voters say they would like to see him re-elected (50% would not). Approval of
Bush’s handling of health care, including Medicare, dropped significantly to
30 percent from 37 percent in last week’s poll (58% disapprove, up from 50%).
Voters also disapprove of his handling of the economy (54%, 40% approve), the
situation in Iraq (50%, 44% approve), and taxes (49%, 43% approve), but almost
half (47%) approve of his handling of education (41% disapprove).

Fifty-one percent of registered voters say they have a favorable opinion
of Bush (44% disagree); the same number (51%) say the same of Kerry (35%
disagree). When asked which phrases describe Bush, 62 percent say he has
strong leadership qualities (down from 67% in last week’s poll), while 54% say
the same of Kerry. Majorities also say Bush is personally likeable (65% vs.
58% for Kerry); says what he believes, not just what people want to hear (61%
vs. 43% for Kerry); that they would trust him to make the right decisions
during an international crisis (55% vs. 44% for Kerry); and that he is honest
and ethical (55% vs. 49% for Kerry). Less than half (46%) say Bush cares about
people like them (down from 49% in last week’s poll), compared with 51% for
Kerry. On Bush and Kerry’s political leanings, 34 percent of registered
voters say Bush is too conservative (58% disagree), while 38 percent say Kerry
is too liberal (47% disagree).

When asked about factors that will affect their presidential vote, 50
percent of voters say the way George W. Bush and his administration have
responded to the September 11 attacks will make them more likely to vote for
Bush (down significantly from 60% in a Jan. 8-9 Newsweek poll), 28 percent say
less likely. Voters are more evenly split on the Bush administration’s Iraq
policy and decision to go to war last spring; 37 percent say it will make them
more likely to vote for him, 40% say less likely. Almost half (47%) say the
state of the economy and jobs will make them less likely to vote for Bush (up
from 38% in the same poll), 26 percent say more likely.

This poll is part of the April 5 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday,
March 29). For this Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates
International interviewed 1,002 adults aged 18 and older on March 25-26, 2004.
The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

(Read Newsweek’s news releases at
Click “Pressroom” at the bottom of the page.)

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