Washington — President Bush's improved standing with whites, men, Catholics and other core supporters has been a key factor in pushing his job approval rating up to 42 percent. That's the highest level since summer.
Shifting into campaign mode to reverse his slide in public opinion polls, Bush has boosted his support among key constituency groups on his handling of Iraq and the economy, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
"Now it's not a one-sided debate," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas, citing Bush's recent speeches on the health of the economy and the high stakes in Iraq.
Bush improved his job approval rating from 37 percent in November to 42 percent now, though his standing with the public remains relatively low. Fifty-seven percent still disapprove, down from 61.
Bush spent much of the year pushing for a Social Security plan that went nowhere, and he was put on the defensive in September and October after the slow government response to Hurricane Katrina.
Those factors combined with Iraq and the price of gasoline hitting $3 a gallon left the president with the lowest public support of his presidency from September through November.
Now, gas prices have eased, and Bush has been barnstorming the country to tout a stronger economy and claim progress in Iraq.
A recent report noted that the nation added 215,000 jobs in November.
On Iraq, Bush's halfway through a series of four speeches outlining the administration's "Plan for Victory" in Iraq. He has been claiming new strength for both Iraq's troops and economy, while acknowledging difficulties caused by continuing violence.
Bush's job approval among men has climbed from 39 percent in November to 47 percent now and among whites from 40 percent to 47 percent, according to the AP-Ipsos poll.
Catholics' approval went from 32 percent to 41 percent. In the Northeast, Bush's support grew from 27 to 41 percent, and in the West from 34 to 42 percent.
Approval of Bush's handling of the economy was up to 42 percent in December from 37 percent last month, according to the poll of 1,002 adults taken Dec. 5-7 by Ipsos. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll found approval for Bush's handling of Iraq also was up, from 37 percent last month to 41 percent now.
Those disapproving totaled 55 percent on the economy, 58 percent on Iraq, both down slightly from November.