Bush approval drops, Democrats' goals backed-poll

 
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WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) Just days after Democrats took over Congress, Americans embraced their top goals and President George W Bush's job approval rating slid to 31 percent, according to a Newsweek poll issued.

Huge majorities of those polled said they approved of the legislative priorities cited by Democratic leaders after their party seized control of the Senate and the House of Representatives from Republicans, the magazine said.

But they also expressed concerns that Democrats might seek to pull US troops out of Iraq too quickly or hamper the administration's efforts to combat terrorism, it said yesterday.

The poll surveyed 1,006 adults on Thursday and Friday, following the Democrats' midterm election victory on Tuesday. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The strongest support, 92 per cent, was for lowering drug prices for retirees on Medicare by allowing the government to negotiate directly with drug companies. Some three-quarters of respondents said it should be a top priority, according to Newsweek.

Americans also supported raising the federal minimum wage (89 per cent), investigating government contracts in Iraq (89 per cent) and cutting the interest rate of federal student loans (88 per cent).

Bush's 31-per cent job approval rating, down from 35 per cent a week earlier, was a new low in Newsweek's polling. Some 63 per cent disapproved of the Republican president's job performance, and a full two-thirds agreed that ''he won't be able to get much done'' in the last two years of his term.

The drop in Bush's approval rating came after Wednesday's resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had been a lightning rod for criticism of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq.

While a bare majority of 51 per cent called the Democrats' victory ''a good thing,'' even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 per cent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 per cent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration ''from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism,'' and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.

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