WASHINGTON, April 26: An opinion poll published on Tuesday shows a gradual decline in support for President George Bush, while the majority also believes that the United States has got bogged down in Iraq. The joint survey by the Washington Post and ABC News registered drops in key performance ratings for President Bush, growing pessimism about the economy and a precipitous decline in support for Mr Bush’s Social Security plan.

The survey also endorsed the views of some analysts and opinion makers who had predicted a decline in public support for the US involvement in Iraq.

Just over four in 10 — 42 per cent — endorsed the way President Bush is dealing with the situation in Iraq, a slight increase from the all-time low in March of 39 per cent. Almost six in 10 — 58 per cent — said the United States has gotten bogged down in Iraq, and 39 per cent said they are confident Iraq will have a stable, democratic government in a year.

President Bush’s overall job approval rating stood at 47 per cent, matching his all-time low in a recent survey. Half disapproved of the job he is doing as president.

On several other key measures of performance, President Bush’s standing with the public was at or near new lows, with less than half the public supporting the way the president is handling the economy, energy policy and Iraq.

Four in 10 approved of Mr Bush’s handling of the economy, down six points since the start of the year. Slightly more than a third of the public approved of Mr Bush’s energy policies, and Americans were more inclined to blame the president rather than oil companies or other countries for soaring gasoline prices.

Taken together, the findings suggest that President Bush is off to a difficult start in his second term, with Democrats far less willing to accommodate him and his agenda than his reelection victory last November may have foreshadowed.

The survey also highlights the divisions within the Republican Party, whether that involves Mr Bush’s signature Social Security proposal or the intersection of religion and politics that has become a defining characteristic of the ruling party.

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