Washington — President Bush is entering his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any recent two-term president, even as he talks about an ambitious agenda of change, an Associated Press poll finds.
Congress is viewed even more negatively -- a troubling sign for Bush and Congress as they tackle such proposals as creating private accounts for those in the Social Security system, overhauling the federal tax code and limiting lawsuit damages.
Bush's approval rating is at 49 percent in the AP poll with 49 percent disapproving among all of those polled. His job approval is in the high 40s or low 50s in several other recent polls -- as low as any job approval rating for a re-elected president at the start of the second term in more than 50 years.
Presidents Reagan and Clinton had job approval ratings near six in 10 just before their inauguration for a second term, according to Gallup polls.
President Nixon's approval was in the 60s right after his 1972 re-election, slid to about 50 percent right before his inauguration and then moved back over 60 percent. President Eisenhower's job approval was in the low 70s just before his second inauguration in 1957.
About four in 10, 41 percent, approve of the job Congress is doing, while 53 percent disapprove, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos Public Affairs.
The nation's sharply partisan divide is responsible for Bush's job ratings. Republicans overwhelmingly approve of Bush's job performance and Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove -- a split found to a lesser extent in the congressional numbers.
Only one in six Democrats say they approved of Bush's job performance, the poll found. In January 2002, six in 10 Democrats approved of the job done by Bush, contributing to an overall job approval rating near 80 percent four months after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In January of last year, about one-quarter of Democrats approved of the job done by Bush.
More than nine in 10 Republicans said they approved of Bush's job performance.
People were evenly divided on Bush's handling of the economy. They take a dim view of his handling of Iraq, with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving, according to the poll of 1,001 adults. It was taken Jan. 3-5 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Even on Bush's strongest area, handling foreign policy and the war on terrorism, people were evenly split -- with 50 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.