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Poll: Approval for Iraq handling drops to new low

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Support for President Bush's management of the Iraq war has dropped to an all-time low even as his overall approval remains tepid but steady, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

The survey, conducted Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corp., found support for Bush's handling of the Iraq conflict has decreased to 28 percent from 34 percent in a poll taken October 13-15.

And a record 70 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's war management, up from 64 percent in the October poll. (Watch CNN's Bill Schneider's report on the poll Video)

Meanwhile, Bush's overall job approval was 36 percent -- down only 1 percentage point from the previous CNN poll to pose that question December 5-7.

Sixty-two percent said they disapproved of his performance in office, up from 57 percent in the early December poll.

The poll released Monday, which surveyed 1,019 adults, had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Bush and his advisers are seeking a new strategy for the war in Iraq, where U.S. troops are battling an insurgency while trying to stem the sectarian violence that has become rampant since the February bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra. (Watch how even children are unable to escape the violence Video)

In a report earlier this month, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group called conditions in Iraq "grave and deteriorating."

Bush has been reluctant to embrace some of the report's key proposals, including a withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008 and a call for direct talks with Iran and Syria.

Though 67 percent of those polled oppose the war in Iraq, only 54 percent said the U.S. should withdraw its troops immediately or within the next year, the poll states.

Asked if they thought victory in Iraq was possible, 48 percent said yes and 50 percent said no. Half of those polled said a stalemate was the most likely outcome of the war.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the war may be the impetus behind a dip in the approval ratings of Bush's handling of anti-terrorism efforts as well, the poll suggests.

Support for his management of anti-terrorism efforts dropped to 42 percent from 50 percent in the poll taken October 13-15. Disapproval of Bush's anti-terrorism efforts increased from 47 percent to 55 percent during that time.

Monday's poll results mark the first time more than 50 percent of respondents have registered disapproval on the topic.

The Bush administration has long argued that Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terrorism. Bush spent last week meeting with officials at the Pentagon and State Department, telling reporters he would not be rushed into a decision.

The White House said last week that Bush plans to outline a new strategy in early January, but the president has ruled out "leaving before the job is done."

In the Monday poll, 27 percent said that the U.S. needs to completely overhaul its strategy and 46 percent said major changes were needed.

Eighteen percent said minor changes were called for and 6 percent said the strategy should remain the same, according to the poll results.

Bush also welcomed a new defense secretary to his Cabinet on Monday as Robert Gates -- a former member of the study group -- took over from Donald Rumsfeld.

The president announced Rumsfeld's resignation the day after Republicans lost control of Congress in November's midterm elections.

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President Bush is expected to announce a new strategy for Iraq in January.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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