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INSIDE POLITICS

Poll: Disapproval of Bush at high point

President's best marks on terrorism, worst on Social Security

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(CNN) -- The number of Americans disapproving of President Bush's job performance has risen to the highest level of his presidency, according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

According to the poll, 53 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's performance, compared to 45 percent who approved.

The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The 53 percent figure was the highest disapproval rating recorded in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll since Bush became president in January 2001.

The approval percentage -- 45 percent -- matches a low point set in late March. The 8-point gap between those who disapproved and approved was the largest recorded during Bush's tenure.

As Bush prepares to address the nation Tuesday to defend his Iraq policy, just 40 percent of those responding to the poll said they approved of his handling of the war; 58 percent said they disapproved. (Full story)

The approval rating on Iraq was unchanged from a poll in late May, and the disapproval figure marked an increase of 2 percentage points.

But the poll also found that issues other than the Iraq war may be dragging down Bush's numbers.

Respondents expressed even stronger disapproval of his handling of the economy, energy policy, health care and Social Security.

The lone bright spot for the president in the poll was his handling of terrorism, which scored a 55 percent approval rating, compared to just 41 percent who disapproved.

The president's worst numbers in the latest poll came on the issue of Social Security, with respondents disapproving of his performance by a margin of more than 2-to-1 -- 64 percent to 31 percent.

Bush has made changing the Social Security system a signature issue of his second term.

He has proposed creating voluntary government-sponsored personal retirement accounts for workers 55 and younger.

Under his proposal, workers could invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in a range of government-selected funds in exchange for lower guaranteed benefits at retirement.

The plan has run into stiff opposition from Democrats, who say the accounts are too risky and will undermine the Social Security system. Some Republicans also are wary of taking on such a politically risky idea.

On the economy, only 41 percent of poll respondents said they approved of Bush's performance, compared to 55 percent who disapproved.

On energy policy, only 36 percent approved, while 53 percent disapproved; and on health care, 34 percent approved and 59 percent disapproved.

The poll results were based on interviews from Friday to Sunday with 1,009 American adults.

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