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Bush drops to record low in polls over Iraq, Katrina

WASHINGTON — Americans' view of President Bush and his leadership has soured in the wake of dismay over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the course of the Iraq war and the future of the economy.

Bush's rating for handling each of those issues dropped to the lowest of his presidency in a USA TODAY-CNN-Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday.

Assessments of his personal qualities also fell: For the first time, a majority say he isn't a strong and decisive leader.

Bush's overall approval rating is 40 percent, equaling a previous low. His overall disapproval rating is 58 percent, a new high.

"Bush stands at a precipice," says Carroll Doherty of the non-partisan Pew Research Center. "He's lost ground among independents. He seems to be starting to lose ground among his own party. And he lost the Democrats a long time ago."

There are signs of friction between the top two concerns on Bush's agenda — the Iraq war and Katrina recovery.

A 54 percent majority say the best way for the government to pay for hurricane relief is by cutting war spending. Just 6 percent support spending cuts in domestic programs, as Bush has suggested.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled, 63 percent, say some or all of the U.S. troops in Iraq should be withdrawn. A record-high 59 percent say it was a mistake to invade.

Bush's travails in the survey are especially notable because Americans by 45 percent to 27 percent approve of the proposals he unveiled Thursday to deal with Katrina's aftermath.

That didn't help assessments of Bush himself; his approval rating for handling the hurricane dipped after the speech. A 56 percent majority say he has taken steps to help the victims for political reasons, not because he cares about them.

Bush's approval rating is lower than any other post-World War II president at this point in his second term except for Richard Nixon, who was battling the Watergate scandal.

The erosion has come mostly among independents. By a record 66 percent to 31 percent, they disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.

The USA TODAY poll of 818 adults included 30 percent Republicans, 33 percent independents and 36 percent Democrats. Gallup doesn't weight the poll results by party because that measure fluctuates with a president's popularity.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.