The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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America split on next President

Washington, Nov. 2 (Reuters): One year before the next presidential election, Americans are evenly divided between President George W. Bush and a Democratic challenger, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed today.

Support for Bush has fallen to the point where 48 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for him if the election were held today, while 47 per cent said they would vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee. Five per cent said they did not know.

The findings demonstrate that three years after one of the closest and most bitterly contested elections in US history, in which Bush narrowly defeated former Vice President Al Gore, the nation is again polarised.

The poll also was released in advance of elections on Tuesday in which governor’s races in two southern states could provide an early indication of Republican chances and the strength of the President’s coattails before next year’s general elections.

Bush’s approval rating, which topped 90 per cent after the September 11, 2001 attacks, was at 56 per cent, with 42 per cent giving him a negative review, according to the poll. Bush got better marks for his handling of the war on terror than for Iraq or his stewardship of the economy.

Bush’s approval ratings have been dragged down in recent polls by mounting public concern over the costs of the war in Iraq, where ongoing attacks continue to claim American lives and stymie the US effort to stabilise the country.

The poll found opposition had risen to the amount America is spending on the war, with 64 per cent against the $87 billion Bush requested to fund military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Poll respondents also said they were concerned about job losses and the US mission in Iraq. Fifty-four per cent of the 1,003 surveyed said they thought the war in Iraq was worth fighting, while 44 per cent said it was not. Those polled rated the economy negatively by a 2-1 margin, though they were questioned before the government released figures showing strong growth in the third quarter.

Voters differed sharply based on their party affiliation, with Republicans much more likely than Democrats to approve of Bush and the Iraq mission, The Post said. Despite Bush’s lower approval ratings, most of those interviewed could not name more than one or two of the Democratic candidates, with the nine Democratic presidential candidates making almost no impression on voters outside of the few states with early caucuses or primaries next year, the paper said.

The findings were released as Bush, to chants of “four more years,” was on a barnstorming tour through Kentucky and Mississippi on behalf of Republican candidates who hold slight edges in the governors’ races.

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