Washington Amid rising consumer confidence, President Bush gets good marks for his handling of the economy from a clear majority of voters for the first time in more than a year, an Associated Press poll finds.
Many offered only qualified support, however.
The uptick in Bush's rating on an issue certain to be central to the upcoming presidential campaign comes as overall public confidence in the economy is as high as it's been since early 2002, according to the national poll conducted last week for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
In all, 55 percent of registered voters said they approved of Bush's handling of the economy and 43 percent disapproved, according to the survey. That's Bush's best number on this measure in Ipsos polls since the third quarter of 2002, though he briefly came close to this level -- at 52 percent -- in July of this year.
A month ago, 46 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved of Bush on the economy.
In the new survey, 23 percent said they strongly approve of Bush's handling of the economy, 19 percent said they somewhat approve and 13 percent initially reported mixed feelings but leaned toward approval. Bush's strong approval score on the economy has hovered in the 20 percent area in Ipsos polls since sliding in early 2002 from around 30 percent.
Also, the public's overall feelings on the economy have risen steadily over the past few months.
"Confidence has improved sharply since the spring, when we were all worried about the war with Iraq," said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Economy.com.
The economy, primed by low interest rates and tax cuts, is showing mixed signs of recovery.
There are projections of rapid growth for 2004, signs of an improving job picture and a rebound in the stock market. But the nation has lost more than 2 million jobs, economists are uncertain about the turnaround in employment and states are reeling from revenue losses.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken Dec. 15-17. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly larger for subgroups like registered voters.